Mary Shelley (2017)
Very good biopic
30 June 2018
This period biopic centres on the 16-year-old writer Mary Wollstonecraft who would go on to become ever famous for writing the novel Frankenstein, which is amongst the most celebrated of all literature from the Romantic era. The film tries to unearth via her life experiences what motivated her to create this story about a tragic, isolated monster and its selfish creator. Specifically, her experiences with her husband the poet Percy Shelley and the libertine writer Lord Byron are considered in some way relevant. As such the film has a feminist slant to it, given that at the time women were simply not allowed to write such dark material. As such, the book was published anonymously in 1818, with her name only appearing on it from 1823 onwards. Having read the novel, it has to be said that it is seriously far from light-weight stuff and is highly literate from start to finish; overall an incredible achievement for an 18-year old.

Elle Fanning stars in the lead role. I had previously seen her appear as the main character in the slick and style-driven horror movie The Neon Demon (2016), and it appears she is putting together an interesting body of work. She does good work here and leads the picture well. It could possibly be argued that the film could have delved a little more into the Frankenstein material itself and tapped into the imagery and poetry of its images, as it is, it is a much more grounded presentation of the events - certainly a lot more so that Ken Russell's Gothic (1986), which was a phantasmagorical version of events at Byron's Geneva house on the fateful night in which the Frankenstein story germinated. Having said all that, I actually preferred Mary Shelley to Gothic, and appreciated the more straight-ahead biopic approach. It allowed us to understand the characters and context a little more. And while it could have perhaps been a little bolder in some ways, I do have to say that I nevertheless found it to be a very compelling period drama about a true heroine and pioneer.
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