Mary Shelley, directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, follows the story of the love affair that paved the way for the creation of what is often considered to be the novel that began the genre of science fiction. While following the conventions of a typical period drama, the film centres on the events in Mary’s (Elle Fanning) life that lead her to feel the abandonment needed to create the character of Frankenstein’s monster. The catalyst for most of her woes comes in the charming form of Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), who whisks her heart away, and becomes the cause of her troubles.
Emma Jensen’s script contains a certain poeticism that makes sense when considering most of the characters seen on the screen are authors themselves. There is beauty in the ordinary conversations heard, which is really something quite remarkable. The intertwined quotes from Percy Shelley’s poetry or Mary Shelley’s book add depth to the narrative, working as a reminder of how great these artists actually were. These quotes, partnered with shots showing the details that exist within the natural world, almost work to prove the beauty that is inspiration to these writers. Although the film feels a little too long at points, it keeps the audience engaged through the performances of the actors, a particularly strong portrayal coming from Fanning, who captures the intricacies of the protagonist’s melancholy and how this works to define her as a survivor.
One could be mistaken when going into the movie for thinking that it would be centred on the writing of Mary’s book, but instead it focuses on her life before her writing, working hard to show the parallels between Frankenstein’s monster and her own feelings of despair and isolation. Mary Shelley adds a relatable element to the mythology that comes with Frankenstein, that while modern belief might understand it to be a mere book about monsters, at its core it is a tale of human emotion – much like the film itself.
Mary Shelley is released nationwide on 6th July 2018.
Watch the trailer for Mary Shelley here: