Mary Shelley (2017) Poster

(2017)

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6/10
I really wanted to hate it!
Bertaut17 July 2018
Watching Mary Shelley was a curious experience. I knew I should hate it, because, although it gets many of the facts right, it gets a massive amount wrong, and thematically, it's a mess. As an English academic by trade, it really should have irritated me no end. Additionally, pretty much everyone I know who has seen it (both academics and non) have loathed it. And I found it very difficult to disagree with any of the criticisms they had. The film is, in places, laughably bad. But for all that, whilst I most certainly didn't love it, nor did I hate it. In fact, I actually liked quite a bit of it. I'm ashamed!

Okay. Let's get the basics out of the way. Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour and written by Emma Jensen (Al-Mansour is credited with "additional writing"), the film bills itself as the true story behind the composition of Mary Shelley's (Elle Fanning) first (and best) novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), with the poster proclaiming, "Her greatest love inspired her darkest creation". This is essentially false advertising; of the two hour run-time, the writing of the novel takes up roughly twenty minutes of the last half hour. Instead, the film is a fairly insipid love story, beginning shortly before the first meeting of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth) in 1812, and culminating in 1819, after the initial anonymous publication of Frankenstein.

As a love story, the film's main focus is, obviously, the ebb and flow of the relationship between Mary and Shelley. With this as the organising principle, and Mary herself as the lynch-pin to the whole endeavour, many of the main events in those seven years are covered; Mary's stay in Scotland with William Baxter (Owen Richards), where she first met Shelley; her difficult relationship with her father, William Godwin (Stephen Dillane); Shelley's unexpected arrival in London at Godwin's invitation; the collapse of Shelley's marriage to Harriet Westbrook (Ciara Charteris); the antagonism between Mary and her stepmother, Mary Jane Clairmont (Joanne Froggatt); Mary's attempts to escape the shadow cast by her deceased mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, author of the mildly influential A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects (1792); her close friendship with her stepsister, Claire Clairmont (Bel Powley); the elopement of Mary, Claire, and Shelley, and their constant struggle with debt; Shelley's concepts of "free love"; the death of Mary and Shelley's first child; the summer of 1816 in Geneva, when she and Shelly stayed with the "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" (to quote Lady Caroline Lamb's famous description) Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge); Mary's friendship with Dr. John Polidori (Ben Hardy) and the tragedy concerning his short story, "The Vampyre: A Tale" (1819); and, ultimately, Mary's composition of Frankenstein.

The overarching A-B-C is all present and accounted for, but, within that reasonably accurate framework, there are a huge number of omissions, inaccuracies, and unwelcome interpolations. For everything the film gets right, it gets so much more wrong. For example, although it correctly shows that Shelley was of the opinion that Mary and Thomas Hogg (Jack Hickey) should become lovers, it fails to acknowledge that Mary herself wasn't entirely opposed to the idea, and was actually good friends with Hogg, whom she often confided in. Upon the death of her first child, she wrote to Hogg, "My dearest Hogg my baby is dead-will you come to see me as soon as you can. I wish to see you-It was perfectly well when I went to bed - I awoke in the night to give it suck it appeared to be sleeping so quietly that I would not awake it. It was dead then, but we did not find that out till morning - from its appearance it evidently died of convulsions - Will you come - you are so calm a creature & Shelley is afraid of a fever from the milk - for I am no longer a mother now." In the film, Hogg is a lech who tries to force himself on Mary. The film also gets it right that Shelley and Mary first expressed their love for one another at her mother's grave, but it shies away from what many scholars believe; that Mary lost her virginity to Shelley on or near the grave. Instead, the film features a dreadful cliched sex scene in a bedroom bathed in firelight. More romantic? Probably. Historically accurate? Almost certainly not. Another point that's presented fairly accurately is the poor living conditions after Mary, Shelley, and Claire elope, and the fact that they were constantly in debt and frequently had to flee their lodgings in the middle of the night. However, the film fails to depict or even hint at the fact that Shelley and Claire were, for a time, lovers. Finally, although the film correctly depicts many of the details of the summer of 1816, it neglects to show that Mary was taking large quantities of laudanum for pretty much the entire time she was in Geneva.

Regarding the performances, first we have Tom Sturridge as Byron. Good lord in heaven! Again the film gets the basics right - Byron was notoriously lavish, flamboyant, and fickle, living a life of excess, even for a Romantic poet, and well known for using and discarding women, and, on occasion, men. However, Sturridge's performance is a thing to behold. He has always tended towards overacting, but his performance here makes Al Pacino's work in City Hall (1996) look positively catatonic. It's just laughable how bad he is in the role, turning Byron into a cartoon character. Stephen Dillane's Godwin is also problematic. Dillane is an immense actor with an extraordinary range (compare his performances in King Arthur (2004), Game of Thrones (2011), and A Touch of Cloth (2012)), but he plays Godwin identically to how he played Leonard Woolf in The Hours (2002) - a put-upon, buttoned down intellectual, trying not to offend anyone, talented in his own right, but living in the shadow of the greater talents of people he loves. Jane Froggatt plays Clairmont as a wicked stepmother straight out of Disney, with no depth to the character whatsoever. A lot of reviews have heavily criticised Fanning's work as Mary, but I thought she was okay in the role. Not spectacular, but not as bad as I expected. Her accent isn't too bad either (and certainly better than Maisie Williams's ridiculous Scottish brogue). However, one can't help but wonder what Saoirse Ronan would have done in the role, had she chosen to do Mary Shelley instead of Mary Queen of Scots (2018).

However, easily the biggest problem with the film, and the one that most of my colleagues and friends have trashed with the most fervour, is the script. First of all, it tries to cover too much, and instead of saying a lot about a few events, it says little of interest about a lot of events. But its biggest flaw is that it reduces one of the greatest love affairs of all time to a series of ridiculous and repetitive petty squabbles that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of EastEnders (1985). The film is at pains to impart how empyrean Mary is, presenting her as a character whose soul is infused with the poetry of an era. However, when depicting her squabbles with Shelley, she's reduced to little more than a cipher for her beliefs, as is he in relation to his. As they literally have the exact same argument about five times in the film, and each time, because their characters have been reasonably well defined, that fact that they're arguing about things that they are well aware of makes the whole thing seem ludicrous; it's all about his free love and failure to provide for Mary clashing with her protofeminism and political sensibility. The film essentially gives us a CliffsNotes summary of some of the key texts of the day, including Godwin's An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its Influence on Morals and Happiness (1793), but it completely fails to provide a solid political or philosophical context, with both Mary and Shelley seemingly existing in some kind of intellectual bubble of their own creation. Lastly, the attempt to link passages from Frankenstein to specific events in Mary's life via flashbacks, is horrendous; poorly conceived, and just as poorly executed.

However, for all that, I can't hate it. Al-Mansour (the first woman from Saudi Arabia to direct a Hollywood funded movie) directs the film confidently and competently. The period detail is excellent. Amelia Warner's score is rousing in places, Caroline Koener's costumes are well designed, Paki Smith's production design is impressively detailed, and David Ungaro's cinematography is suitably gritty. There are also some fine performances; Booth is pitch-perfect as a frustrated and free-thinking Shelley, and Ben Hardy is superb as Polidori, whose tragedy is unfortunately glossed over far too quickly.

So, with all that said, it's not a film I'd recommend unreservedly, but it's not something I'd warn people not to see. In fact, one of the questions I had after watching it was who was it made for; who was the target audience? Academics and people familiar with the events will almost universally hate it, whilst a more mainstream audience used to superhero movies and explosions will find it boring beyond belief. A very curious experience!
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9/10
A GOTHIC TALE OF A WRETCHED LIFE LIVED TO CREATE A MASTERPIECE
marhashams10 June 2018
I always make the time to read IMDB's user reviews before I waste my time on a movie. For some reason I decided not to on this evening, as I was eternally bored with my own existence. The experience of watching Mary Shelley has made me reconsider my tactic of choosing movies based on user reviews, as we all have such diverse taste in an artists work, we should not let the audiences opinions hold too much merit over our own taste. I enjoyed the movie from start to end, and the actors did a wonderful job at the portrayal of their characters. I have taken the time to dive to deep into Mary Shelley's life story, so I do not know how true this story is to her life, but the movie did manage to keep my attention for just over two hours and entertained me over the course of that time. I must say this movie managed to spark a deep interest in me for the young author of Frankenstein, and I shall now proceed to do more research on the infamous Mary Shelley.
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8/10
a deliciously Gothic tale of the tempestuous life behind Frankenstein
CineMuseFilms19 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It will surprise some people to know that the first science fiction novel Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus (1818) was written by the 18-year-old wife of celebrated poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. This literary classic was the product of a restlessly creative mind, emotional turbulence and stifling Georgian social pressures. All of it is captured by the sumptuously filmed historical bio-pic Mary Shelley (2017) which tells the story of a romantic rebel and literary feminist who spoke for her times.

The simple plot line is saturated with the tropes of feminist melodrama. An avid reader of ghost stories, the precocious Mary (Elle Fanning) was raised by author William Godwin (Stephen Dillane) after her mother, the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, died soon after Mary's birth. Encouraged to find her own writing voice, she spends her time turning her imagination into private stories until the day she is swept off her feet by the dashingly handsome Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). As Percy is already married, scandal follows and they are cut off by their families. They run away and live happily in bohemian squalor until Mary loses her own child and Percy has an affair with her half- sister. When challenged by the decadent poet Lord Byron to write a ghost story, she draws upon her experience of abandonment, her fascination with mortality, and her tempestuous relationship with Percy to write and publish the immediately popular Frankenstein.

Successful bio-pics of great literary figures are generally character studies more than plot-driven narratives. From a literary history viewpoint, the film's greatest achievement is in showing how Dr Victor Frankenstein's destructive monster was itself the embodiment of Mary's emotional world. The story is powered entirely by Elle Fanning's brilliant performance. With an extraordinary expressive range for a young actress, she can transform herself from pain and anguish to romantic ecstasy with a simple transcendent smile that jumps off the screen. Douglass Booth is superb in his supporting role, playing the self-indulgent poet scoundrel to perfection. As you would expect with principal filming in Dublin, the sets are gorgeously authentic and the filming style deliciously Gothic.

Some critics have bemoaned the decision to introduce Frankenstein only towards the end of the film. To do otherwise would have turned the novel into the subject and lost the film's focus on the writer. There is great storytelling at work here: it balances period drama, feminist history, romance, and a portrait of creative genius, making this a film of many labels. It is also a satisfying psychological deconstruction of how a literary work can be a mirror of a writer's life.

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9/10
Gorgeous and haunting.
msamanthawilliams2 February 2019
I had zero expectations going into this film. I was obsessed within the first 15 minutes. Elle Fanning is incredible as Shelley. Her performance helps us to understand the mindset and life of this incredible woman. It was like seeing art through an artists eyes; tragic art since her work is Frankenstein.

I left this movie with so much appreciation for Mary Shelley. I don't care if it's not completely accurate and whatnot. The director embodies the struggle of not only being a woman, but a smart talented one in a time that was just unheard of. Mary was an extremely strong, brave and ambitious soul. Our teenagers should seek her for inspiration, not these stupid social media influencers.
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9/10
This film could easily be titled The Rise of Elle Fanning
Boristhemoggy9 June 2018
I know there are some erudite comments about the accuracy of the story, but as this is just a story and does not claim to be an autobiographical account of Mary Shelley's life, I feel some inaccuracies matter less. The key thing for me is that the story was so excellently written using a diluted language of the day so as to be clearly understandable, and so brilliantly directed that there was never a dull or irrelevant moment and you felt encapsulated in the story the entire time, and the acting was so sublime so as to engage me wholly and perfectly both in the story and the execution of the story by the performers. Elle Fanning has acted such a wide breadth of roles now that she must be viewed as one of Hollywoods finest. I have never been left wanting by any of her films and she always makes me totally believe in her character. For her to slip easily between the mind bending scenes of How to Talk to Girls at Parties and into a thoughtful and intense role such as Mary Shelley shows she has no fear of any role but every skill needed for them all. My review is based on the writing, direction and acting an thoroughly deserves this almost perfect score.
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7/10
A Star is Born
shil05002 June 2018
A wonderfully adapted script & casted perfectly for Elle Fanning & Bel Powley. The movie does great justice & entertains you with a wonderful script with flowing poetry and proper English as spoken in the years past. The motivation, inspiration of ones passion, desires and disappointment's allowing Mary to pen her words to a great story are told and performed exquisitely by Elle Fanning who is truly becoming an incredible actress. So if you want a good movie for an adult date night, here you go. Enjoy!
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6/10
Conjecture and taking of liberties
Snootz3 June 2018
Frankenstein is one of the greatest novels ever written. It was brilliantly conceived and executed and significantly ahead of its time. The Hollywood-ization of this novel is usually lacking all merit of the work, missing the novel's primary question: who was the greater monster-- the creature or the doctor?

This movie takes great liberties in dramatizing the life of the author prior to her writing the book. It does so fairly well-- to the point of discomfort in how women were viewed and treated in those intellectually stimulating but socially dark times. The climate of England and surrounding areas was one of bigotry, inequality and extreme prejudice. This film presents the despair of such times quite well, drawing the viewer into the potential feelings of the author when writing the book.

That is the weakness of the film: it is largely conjecture. As a work of fiction it does reasonably well. Lovers of gothic romance may be entranced (if unsettled) by the presentation and emotional darkness of the film. For what the writers and directors were attempting, they achieved to an extent. However the storytelling is somewhat interrupted and set back by unwarranted flashbacks and other film gimmicks that detracted from the reality of the story. One such gimmick is nowhere more obvious than at the very end of the film where they present a spoken line quite important to the movie-- AFTER text blurbs discussing the lives of the main characters. Such was poorly done and interrupted the flow of the movie right at the end-- in my opinion an unforgivable sin in movie making. (I might have given this another star were it not for that significant flaw in directing.)

As to the accuracy, that is likely irrelevant. This is a dramatization, and that's the simple truth of it. Whether the story is accurate or not is secondary to achieving its purpose. It tells the intended story decently-- just not well enough to draw in the viewer and make itself believable. It focused too greatly on inconsequential things of no matter to the story, and too little on issues of potential greatness. As such it was worth watching, but viewers might not expect storytelling anywhere near the expertise of the original novel.

To the viewer who wrote of hating the novel and enjoying the Hollywood monster movies much more-- everyone has personal opinions, but it is a sad situation when a novel the quality and impact of Frankenstein is not understood and appreciated, more so when publicly boasted.
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8/10
Not for the comic-book hero fan
twigg-d-823044 June 2018
If you're looking for high-tech thrills and mindless entertainment with a comic book plot, then this movie is not for you. But if you have the patience and empathy to join a young woman in the discovery and pursuit of her passions; and the joys, hardships and bitter disillusionments that led to her producing a timeless masterpiece, then your 2 hours will be well spent!

Haifaa Al-Mansour deserves huge credit for giving 21st-century moviegoers an in-depth look into the life of a self-motivated, independent-minded, extremely creative girl-woman in male-dominated 18th-century Europe; and the pain and sacrifices endured, observed, analyzed and interpreted to produce her masterpiece Frankenstein. Two hours is not much time to portray such a life, but with the brilliant cast of Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth et al, Al-Monsour does the original creative genius cum heartbroken romantic feminist sweet and bitter justice!
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5/10
Adapting Wikipedia Article
theolegest18 May 2018
The main goal of Mary Shelley was to show everything that the heroine went through before writing Frankenstein. In my opinion, it failed. The movie was listing the events in her life, but not in a way that would make you care about any of it.

Moreover, the scene where Mary writes her novel and the movie constantly cuts to flashbacks was corny and kind of insulting. This was such a great potential of showing how artist and their worldview is influenced by the course of their life, but ended up being shallow and very blatant. Some parts, Mary's interest in science for example, felt like writers were going through checkpoints, adding things just because they need to be there for the movie to make sense.

This movie is very similar to The Imitation Game. I loved that movie, but I felt that the source material was so interesting that the Oscar for the best Adapted Screenplay was undeserved. This movie proved me wrong. Anything can be boring if you are uninspired enough, apparently.
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7/10
Deserves more than 6.3
lucydarrington14 July 2018
This film deserves more than 6.3 on IMDB. Douglas Booth and Fanning present two people who the audience may perhaps have preconceptions of their characters- without feeding to their expectations which results in two genuine characters both with flaws but both human as apposed to the figures history created out of them.
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6/10
This might have worked better as a six hour TV mini-series.
Pairic1 July 2018
Mary Shelley: This film is a tad confused as it tries to fit so much into a 2 hour running time. There is the romance between Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth) and Mary Wollstonecraft (Elle Fanning); her freethinking father William Godwin (Stephen Dillane); her deceased mother Mary Wollstonecraft the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; the affair between Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont (Bel Powley) and Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge); then there is the tale of the Swiss villa where the Frankenstein story was conceived. Mary even has a nasty stepmother (Joanne Froggatt).

Booth and Fanning both look exceedingly pretty and it's certainly lust if not love at first sight but somehow there are no real sparks in the relationship. Shelley is a cad who has deserted his wife and child and now hopes to have free love with Mary and more on the side. The real fire rages between Powley and Sturridge even if his Byron portrayal is somewhat reminiscent of Jason Isaacs plying Zhukov. The Swiss scenes where Frankenstein was thought up are surprisingly low key with Polidori (Ben Hardy) providing the main interest.

This might have worked better as a six hour TV mini-series. 6/10.
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7/10
Mary Shelley (2018)
rockman18229 May 2018
I had only previously read excerpts from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, but it's hard to deny the endearing legacy the novel had in literature and even in cinema. I was pretty hyped to see this because it seemed intriguing and also because it was clearly Elle Fanning appreciation weekend. After making the assumption that most of the events in the film are fairly accurate I must admit that I enjoyed this film.

The film follows the early life of Mary Shelley and her first love to Percy Shelley. Percy was a bit of a philanderer but Mary persevered because she loved him. She experiences heartbreak and loss through her early years but then comes upon circumstances where she is able to write her own novel in a competition. Of course, this novel comes to be known as Frankenstein. However, its tough for Mary to get the credit she deserves for it because it was not common for women at the time to be known for their writing. Also, her husband was already an established writer so people assumed it was his story.

I'm a fan of both of the Fanning sisters but I think Elle is the better actress. After seeing her in this and How to Talk to Girls at Parties, I can see her dedication and how committed she is to a role. She is a strong point as to why this film is enjoyable. I also liked the set and costume design was very accurate for period detail. Technically, the film looks the part so its nice to stare at. I haven't seen Haifaa al-Mansour's previous effort but feel inclined to check it out since I enjoyed this biopic enough.

I'd say the main weakness of the film is its lack of focus on Frankenstein. The film is primarily focused on Shelley's love life and then kind of kicks into focusing on her writing efforts but even so the film does not really illustrate the importance of the work or the profound effect it has on people. They cover the inspiration for the work but I don't think its nearly enough. Overall, a pretty solid film with flaws but one thats heralded by a strong lead performance.

7/10
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4/10
Not as thrilling as you'd be reasonably entitled to expect
iantrader5 June 2018
I'm a sucker for artist biog movies.

The storyline is interesting to keep you watching - well, keep me watching, anyway - as it runs through the events and experiences which supposedly contributed to the writing of Frankenstein. I don't know enough about her actual history to say how true or not is is but it seems feasible in a movie sort of way.

One aspect of life at that time it does highlight is the (little) regard in which women and creative women were held.

The stars are excellent. Douglas Booth in particular makes a text-book Shelly.

So, what's wrong with it?

Well, it generally lacks drive and it's not as gripping as you're probably entitled to think a movie about the creator of Frankenstein should be. There are masses of fantastic characters - Shelly, Byron, Godwin, Polidori - but their interactions are mundane. There is one tense scene where Shelly and Byron meet but it all just fizzles out and reverts to the mundaneness which had gone before.

It's interesting as a possible biog and worth watching if you enjoy these types of movie but it just doesn't have the pizazz to make it stand out.
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4/10
Dull and lifeless
eelen-seth29 October 2018
This story is too much about Mary and Percy's relationship and not so much about Mary Shelley. Prepare yourself for 90 minutes of boredom and 30 minutes of somewhat fast editing and wrapping up Mary Shelley's legacy. Melodramatic at most mainly because of a confusing script that doesn't know what to focus on. Also, Elle Fanning seems terrible miscast as the titular character as her acting is dull and seemed in serious need of an electrical charge.
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7/10
Elle Fanning is great!
ttmlevigan10 July 2018
Elle Fanning is awesome in this film (as always) but the script tried to cover too much time and we're left with beautiful snippets that spark interest but are never fully satisfying - as soon as we get into a bit of story, we suddenly move-on and too many threads are left untied. I enjoyed the spectacle, but they maybe bit-off too much!
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7/10
A Gloomy Look at the Greats of Romantic Literature.
First off, Elle Fanning totally shows she has the goods as a leading actress. Her portrayal of a rather hardened and humorless Mary Shelley was the glue that held this picture together. What made the movie sort of an endurance test is the writing. It's so trying to shove down your throat some sort of message on feminism that it totally lacks in any wit or humor. I mean these are some of the most celebrated authors in Western Literature. The way this thing is written both Shelley and Lord Byron are total self-centered boors who have very little clever to say and mostly exist to piss Mary off and further galvanize her will.

If you've ever seen the lurid, over indulgent, over the top and brilliant 'Gothic' by Ken Russel you've seen what can be done with the subject matter. By comparison the Shelley's stay with Byron in this movie is as exciting as getting stuck for a month with your Drunk Uncle and his Group of Louts. There is no sense of poetry being in the air. No sense of the wonder of creation a few well crafted verses can create. There's no sense of how a love of literature forged the relationship and stoked the passion of Mary and Percy's love affair.

Instead what we get is a victory claimed in the name of feminism because Mary Shelley is more well known than either her husband and Lord Byron. But if the fruits of victory is that we have to be subjected to a grim and gloomy interpretation of Shelley's life rather than a celebration of it, what's the point?

The Shelley's lived an incredible life, though on the verge of poverty most of the time they always seemed to be able to travel extensively and they rejoiced in the world around them. Mary was a well known travel writer. They seemed to love the romantic notion of their bohemian lifestyle. You get none of that sense of wonder from this movie.

Given all that 'Mary Shelley' is still a movie worth watching. The acting is all very solid and it's a well done production. A little less dogma and gloom and a little more celebration of verse would have really lifted this picture. For a glimpse at a rising star who will soon be in Jennifer Lawrence territory as a leading lady it is definitely a picture you should see.
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A captivating story
Gordon-114 August 2018
This film tells the story of Mary, the daughter of two literary stars. The story concentrates on her life, and the circumstances which inspired her famous story "Frankenstein".

The story is very good because it captures emotions wonderfully. From love, jealousy, loneliness, disappointment, arrogance and despair, emotions are skilfully displayed on screen. I find the story captivating, and I am drawn to the characters' less than fortunate world.
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5/10
The 'Sturm und Drang' that Inspired Frankenstein
makleen228 October 2018
The early life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein, is recounted in Mary Shelley (2018) a period drama/romance written by Emma Jensen and directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour. It was originally titled The Storm in Our Stars, and focuses mainly on the relationship between Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and how their relationship inspired Frankenstein - the story of a mad doctor who reanimated a corpse using electricity. It left me wishing someone had shot a jolt of electricity into this sullen and mediocre film.

The year is 1814. Sixteen-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft-Godwin (Elle Fanning) lives in London with her father, writer and book seller William Godwin (Stephen Dillane), her stepmother, Mary Jane Clairmont (Joanne Froggatt), and stepsister, Claire Clairmont (Bel Powley). Mary greatly admires her birth mother, early feminist theorist Mary Wollstonecraft, who died when she was a baby. Her rebellious streak sets her at odds with her more conventional stepmother, and her father sends her away to Scotland.

In Scotland, Mary meets 21-year-old poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), who follows her back to London under the pretense of becoming her father's student. The two fall in love, but things get complicated when Percy's wife Harriet (Ciara Charteris) shows up with their young son. Bucking social convention, Mary, Percy, and Claire run away together and face financial hardship and the death of their first child.

Meanwhile, Claire attracts the attention of Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) and becomes pregnant. Together with John Polidori (Ben Hardy), they spend a few tumultuous weeks together in Geneva, where Byron challenges them to a ghost story writing contest. This inspires Mary to begin writing Frankenstein. After becoming estranged over Percy's deplorable personality, the two reunite in her father's bookshop and live happily ever after.

Historically, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) was the daughter of radical political philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft. She met Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley as a teen and they married in 1816 after Percy's first wife, Harriet, committed suicide. Mary Shelley is mostly known for writing the Gothic novel Frankenstein (1818), which was published when she was twenty years old. Percy died in a boating accident in 1822 and Mary returned to England with their fourth and only surviving child. She went on to publish several other novels, in addition to promoting her late husband's work.

Mary Shelley plays freely with the facts. For example, although Percy did abandon his first wife to tour France and Switzerland with Mary and Claire, he did not shun their children as depicted in the film. The movie portrays Thomas Hogg as a rapist who tried to force himself on Mary - in reality they were close friends. Neither Mary and Percy's marriage nor the birth of their second and third child, all of which occurred before Frankenstein was published, are depicted in the film. But none of these inaccuracies are too distracting, especially if you know nothing about Mary Shelley's complicated personal life.

The main problem with Mary Shelley is not its historical inaccuracy, but its lack of creativity, energy, or spark. The couple's romance meanders its way through the trials and tribulations of a conventional period love story with a predictable ending. The only really interesting scene was when Percy, Mary, and Claire attend the Phantasmagoria and meet Lord Byron for the first time, and where Mary sees a man animate frog legs using electricity. At last, there is a hint of inspiration and color in an otherwise dreary world.

Mary Shelley grossed under $2 million internationally at the box office and failed to connect with audiences and critics. It currently has a 40 percent favorability rating from critics and 47 percent audience score on RottenTomatoes. Filmmakers have been mining the romantic world of Gothic fiction since the inception of cinema, but unfortunately the lives of the authors who wrote it translate less compellingly on screen.
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9/10
How I wish I could speak with previous reviewers
ayoreinf4 August 2018
I've read two longish reviews of this film, I loved the film, The reviewers didn't. They didn't trush it all the way they didn't rate it 1-3 stars, which became common practice on this site. But reading their reviews I personally think they completely misunderstood the film. In fact I've got a different opinion altogether about what cinema is.

This is obviously a bio pic. but it's not a documentary. It's a work of fiction. It's the directors work, and it's the story the director chooses to tell. As is she tell the story truthfully. One may argue about the exact precision of the minute details, but even the longish review arguing against the errors made by the film does agree all the facts in the film are true. The argument dwells mainly on interpretation. Well interpretation is the directors to make. Interpretations are not historical facts. The story is about how Mary Shelley grew into the writer who wrote Frankenstein, it's not the story of Frankenstein it's a story of a strong woman in a period when being a strong woman was much harder than we realize, and it's told by a director who's interest is exactly at that point.

Considering these facts, this movie is a great success. Elle Funning is superb giving what I consider her coming of age performance taking her look of fragil beauty and imbuing it with inner strength and personality. She was always tallented but she's doing a hell of a job here. And judging the precision of her English accent is beside the point, unless you're an incarnation of Professor Higgins. The other actors are also very good. True Tom Sturridge is giving a very hammy performance as Lord Byron, but I personally always imagined Lord Byron as a hammy character. Ofcourse not everybody shares my opinion, but it's a legitimate opinion and both the director and Mr. Sturridge thought it suited the role, I think they had the right to do so.

Another point I want to make is the film noire usage of background atmosphere and weather conditions to mirror the state of the characters - it's done very well and it suits the story too. Which obviously is also a result of superb cinematography all credit to David Ungaro.

To sum it all up, I really wish I could discuss it all with the reviewers I mentioned but it's impossible on this site. I did publish my own email address here once but it's no longer visible because the site management decided to take it away. And I wish they didn't. But the film itself, in my own opinion is a work of art of the highest quality. And it hits all the nails its aiming for right on the head.
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6/10
compelling life
SnoopyStyle13 July 2018
Mary Godwin (Elle Fanning) has known loss all her life. Her mother died soon after childbirth. Her beloved father supported her learning despite his struggling book business. He sends her to stay in Scotland with the Baxters. There she is taken with young budding poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). He follows her back to London promising to pay her father's debts. Mary is shocked when his wife and child show up. Despite the scandalous abandonment and her father's disapproval, she runs away with him taking her younger step-sister Claire Clairmont (Bel Powley) along with them. Percy is cut off from his family and they struggle for money. She faces further abandonment as he pursues the philosophy of free love. Claire has a fling with famed writer Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge). Mary finds common cause with Dr. John Polidori. At age 18, she writes the seminal work drawing from her loss of mother, child, and possibly her husband.

This story has lots of good potential and a solid performance by Fanning. This is a biopic of one of the great literary figures. She has a great story to tell. It's the highest priority to zero in on the subject's central premise. For Mary, it should tie in with abandonment for her monster. Instead, this is a muddled narrative that fails to focus on that singular idea. Although Isabel Baxter may be a big part of a specific part of her life, there's no need for her since all that's necessary from that section is an introduction to Percy. Percy's free love demand seems to come out of nowhere and yet it's a big part of their common philosophy. There is a lack of intellectual understanding of these characters. Despite all the flaws, Fanning is an appealing lead actress and she holds the screen to the end. Mary Shelley lived a compelling life and this movie gives a fleeting glimpse into it.
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9/10
If you open up your mind, you will receive the profound and beautiful message shared by director and talented actors
caneangie9 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I affectionately commend Director Haifaa Al-Mansour's astute and tender depiction of the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Mary Shelley), played by the talented Elle Fanning. I loved the entire cast. It was beautifully written. I have not watched a movie that has touched me so deeply in quite some time. It brought tears to my eyes and made me truly understand the novel Frankenstein at an even deeper level. I have a profound respect for the novel now, which was truly unconventional for the period. Mary Shelley creatively portrayed the feminist plight in the early 19th century by using a male character in the form of a monster. At the time, I doubt that anyone who read it when it was distributed without the name of the author took it as more than a horror story. She went from publisher to publisher and no one really got it or gave it a chance because she was a woman. I loved that they show the relationship between Mary and her father, who never truly abandons her, but grooms her and believes in her even though he does not always agree with her choices. It is a love story and a detailed memoir of Mary Shelley's plight as a woman living in that century. Anyone who has ever been young and in love should be touched. It is a reminder of that period in life when we are all trying to find ourselves despite religion, culture, and family beliefs. Al-Mansour shows the good, the bad and the ugly in people's characters through the various characters in the movie. She also shows that true love between people is them accepting each other for who they really are and standing by them despite their flaws. Frankenstein was created with the hopes and expectations that he would be the perfect human being. However, like all humans, he is inevitably flawed, and therefore unloved, and unwanted by those who cannot truly love unconditionally or see the beauty beyond the external appearance. I usually do not rate anything at a 9 but I was happily surprised by Al-Mansour's vision. I loved the originality and the risks she took in making this adaptation of Mary Shelley's journey from a child to a well-known and highly admired novelist. Again, I love that her father played such a vital role in providing her with the confidence, respect, and love that made her such a strong woman. While she had her mother's personality and fiery spirit, it was tempered by her father's belief in her abilities and his constant acknowledgement that she had a beautifully creative mind. Her father challenged her to be her very best.
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8/10
Surprisingly haunting
paulven-2266217 July 2018
This film remains with me 24 hours after viewing. It maybe centers too much on Mary Shelley's relationship with her husband Percy and not enough on her own emotional and philosophical development that finally led to the writing of Frankenstein. However, it has something that has got under my skin. Despite their privilege, these were bold characters who were intent to push outside the social constraints of the day, preferring to be cut off by their families rather than smother their creative fires. They are debauched and destructive, Byron excessively so in this film, but their poetic influence is still with us today. Unhindered by all the creativity sapping distractions of our modern life, mobile phones, sports, additive series etc., they really took it to the edge. I found the film inspiring. Beautiful soundtrack too.
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8/10
A legend blooms out of darkness
gradyharp17 June 2018
Emma Jensen took all the facts about the history of the creation of FRANKENSTEIN and with additional writing by Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first Saudi female director ever to direct a Hollywood film, the two ladies have created a marvelous period piece that is a dark psychological study of Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin as she comes to grips with a fragile love relationship (in a time when the concept of feminism didn't exist) and self discovery to write one of the great books of history - that infamous love affair between poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and 18 year old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, which resulted in Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein.

As the film's synopsis states, She will forever be remembered as the writer who gave the world Frankenstein. But the real life story of Mary Shelley-and the creation of her immortal monster-is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father (Stephen Dillane) in 18th-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth). So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork. Imbued with the imaginative spirit of its heroine, Mary Shelley brings to life the world of a trailblazing woman who defied convention and channeled her innermost demons into a legend for the ages. The other characters who play a major role in this story include Dr John Polidori (Ben Hardy), Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge), Mary's sister Claire (Bel Powley), Percy's wife Harriet (Clara Charteris), and publisher Thomas Hogg (Jack Hickey)

Though the story appears pushed into darkness a bit too often it does indeed create an atmosphere conducive to the genesis of Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN and the story is an important one on many levels. A very well done period piece.
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10/10
Frankenstein Explained
beorhhouse18 June 2018
This is a masterpiece of a film. Since I first saw the film Frankenstein (1931) when I was five, I have tried to understand the story, but did not until I saw this film. Incisively and intuitively written, this film begins with a seeming support of all things ultra-liberal--free love, profligacy, drunkenness, drug use, and so on--while all the time building on the reality that those who delve into such lives are self-torturing fools. I rarely give 10s on IMDb, but this one deserves even more.
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8/10
Important and Inspiring
atractiveeyes11 July 2018
An important decent movie with some great performances & beautiful plot. A true story of Mary Godwin that got inspired by her miserable life & love affair to write her first masterpiece & how she struggled as a female author to get her chance of publishing.
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