Well worth shelling out a few scheckles for, MARY SHELLEY is an impressive bio pic .
Suitably, for the story of the creator of Frankenstein, pic opens in a graveyard, but this isn’t a horror story.
Rather, MARY SHELLEY tells the story of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin – author of one of the world’s most famous Gothic novels ‘Frankenstein’ – and her fiery, tempestuous relationship with renowned romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. The pair are two outsiders constrained by polite society but bound together by a natural chemistry and progressive ideas that are beyond the boundaries of their age and time.
This was the time of Galvinism, and the electrical frisson between the cad lad, Percy, already married and having sired a child, and the precocious Mary, arc and spark a bold decision to declare their love for each other and much to her family’s horror they run away together, joined by Mary’s half-sister Claire.
In the midst of growing tension within their relationship during their stay at Lord Byron’s house at Lake Geneva, the idea of Frankenstein is conceived when a challenge is put to all house guests to write a ghost story.
An incredible character is created, which will loom large in popular culture for centuries to come, but society at the time put little value in female authors, and at the tender age of 18, Mary is forced to challenge preconceptions of what is right and proper, to protect her work and to forge her own identity.
Elle Fanning plays Mary with a feisty ferocity, and her half-sister Claire is played by the equally formidable Bel Powley.
Douglas Booth as Percy and Tom Sturridge as Byron give their caddish, laddish best – both talk of dalliance as a lapse in judgement – with Ben Hardy giving comforting contrast as Polidori, letting Mary know that not all men are bastards.
Of course, she knows that already from her father, William Godwin, a progressive publisher superbly played by Stephen Dillane.
Written by Australian, Emma Jensen and directed by Saudi film maker, Haifaa Al Mansour, MARY SHELLEY does have some very interesting parallels to Wadjda, her first feature film. Both young women were struggling against conservative social structures in order to pursue the lives they wanted to live. They are both women who unapologetically follow their hearts, against the norms and expectations of their societies, without compromise to achieve a personal triumph.
Developed with the assistance of Screen NSW and Screen Australia, MARY SHELLEY shines a deserved light on a woman of substantial importance and great literary legacy.