IFC Films | Release Date: May 25, 2018
5.7
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Mixed or average reviews based on 28 Ratings
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13
Mixed:
9
Negative:
6
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4
duddy5698Jul 23, 2018
The Positive:
Acting
Cinematography Well-made

The Negative:
Bleak
Boooooooooooooooooooooooring
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5
JLuis_001Jun 30, 2018
It's a well done drama but it is also very conventional and boring.
Elle Fanning is taking challenges in diverse roles but she's taking them in mediocre films that won't do much for her name and career.
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6
AngelSantosJul 25, 2018
A godd performance from Elle Fanning but this period drama falls realy flat, compared to the creativity and the life of Shelly her self
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6
Bertaut1Aug 12, 2018
I really wanted to hate it!

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
I really wanted to hate it!

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. 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.

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) Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). 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, 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; 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 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.

Within this 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, who is depicted in the film as a lech who tries to force himself on her. 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. 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.

However, easily the biggest problem 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. 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. They literally have the exact same argument about five times; it's all about his free love and failure to provide for Mary clashing with her protofeminism and political sensibility. Additionally, 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 directs confidently and competently. The period detail is excellent. 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 (although Sturridge's insanely over-the-top Byron is so bad it's just awful).

Academics and those familiar with the events will almost universally hate it, whilst a more mainstream audience will find it boring. Personally, I didn't hate it. A very curious experience!
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5
Slovenly_MuseOct 7, 2018
A competent film that, unfortunately, shies away from the most radical, progressive, challenging, and interesting aspects of Shelley's life, contenting itself instead to portray her as a mostly conventional girl, caught up as a sort of victimA competent film that, unfortunately, shies away from the most radical, progressive, challenging, and interesting aspects of Shelley's life, contenting itself instead to portray her as a mostly conventional girl, caught up as a sort of victim of her acquaintances' unconventional practices and thereby suffering for her art. In this film, Shelley is mostly defined by her relationship to Percy, and the publication of her first and most famous novel is seen as the end of her story, rather than the beginning. Expand
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