Title: Mary Shelley
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Starring: Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams, Ben Hardy
Runtime: 2 hrs
What It Is: A period piece depicting Frankenstein writer Mary Shelly (Elle Fanning) in her days involved with her soon-to-be husband Percy (Douglas Booth) as she culminates ideas for her iconic novel.
What We Think: The film as a whole is an uninteresting ride from one cliche of a situation to another. This is, indeed, your average historical romance drama. Had the film not been bogged down by the Shelleys’ relationship portrayed for a young adult audience, it would have been easier to take seriously. Which isn’t to say there’s nothing to be observed here: every now and then you happen across an interesting setup where two progressive characters engage in a conversation defending their beliefs within their liberalism. It’s something a little different that I haven’t really noticed in other movies like this: though the writing is heavy-handedly feminist and left-winged, the argument considers the definition of a liberal lifestyle and where to draw the line rather than the common tale of personal independence versus conservatism. Or perhaps I was just so bored I began projecting upon the film myself in order to give it some juice. Besides the point, the production design is actually sort of lovely and well done and the cinematography is fine. The editing feels rushed at times, but to give this film any other sort of credit, it does calm down and improve starting towards the middle (paralleling the young Mary Shelley’s maturation). My last gripe is some of the acting. I can only handle the fake 19th-century British accents for so long.
Our Grade: C-, Mary Shelley seems to understand and celebrate the complex nature and themes of Shelley’s work and the adversity women face(d), the problem is it felt too simplified. The potential impact and entertainment in watching Mary Shelley come into her own as a writer was sort of squandered and dryly romanticized in order for it to appeal to a younger audience (earning that PG-13 with a bit of almost-boob). It did not appeal to me.