Frankenstein is perhaps one of my favorite novels that I have ever read. While it is doomed to never have a good adaptation, this biopic promised to tell the story of what inspired the novel. Mary Shelley is the English-language debut of Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour detailing the most important chapter in the life of the eponymous author.
Going into the film, I knew a little bit about the inception of the novel. That being said, there was still quite a bit that I did not know, hence I cannot tell for sure what is real and what is fictionalized. Still, I found the writing to be quite compelling. One of the most notable characteristics of Shelley's work is that, in her era, it was still frowned upon for women to be authors. As such, this film is able to have an important feminist message. Although it is not quite as extreme as it was then, there is still an obvious disparity between the roles of men and women in our society, and this film brings attention to that issue and calls for it to come to an end. In the film, Mary Shelley is portrayed as a fiercely independent woman, a real-life role model that is desperately needed for young women in our day and age. Outside of this, the film did get a bit conventional at times, although I still enjoyed it greatly. The conflict is very interesting, as it involves the clash between love, family, and society, an issue which I have always found to be fascinating. Towards the end of the film, the pacing begins to speed up to the point where it is almost rushing, with many skips in time leading to the unfortunate omission of some very interesting moments in the drama. Nonetheless, I found myself consistently involved with the film despite some of its flaws.
In terms of execution, I thought that the film was great. It was an excellently-shot period piece. The production design and cinematography both do a great job of capturing the era in which the film takes place. The costumes and set design were both absolutely beautiful. The score is also very good, for the most part. There were a few parts that were a little percussion-heavy for my taste in relation to this film, but I liked most of the music. I found no obvious anachronisms, which is very good. The actors all do an excellent job in their roles. Elle Fanning is an excellent actress— I don't think I have seen her in a film in which I did not like her performance. She is great at portraying strong and fierce female characters, and that is exactly what this role calls for. Still, she is also able to show the more complex emotions required of some of the tougher scenes in the film. Douglas Booth complements her well as her romantic interest. He is very charismatic and sympathetic, characteristics required for the characters sly personality. Tom Sturridge is also very good in his role, with a flamboyant performance that perfectly matches the exuberant lifestyle lived by Byron.
Overall, I liked Mary Shelley quite a bit. Elle Fanning's performance is wonderful, and as a fan of Shelley's work, I found that the story was quite compelling. Although the film may not quite live up to its amazing subject, it still does an excellent job of telling the story.
Mary Shelley is now in select theaters and is available on VOD June 1.
Big Tuna's Rating: B
How Did I Watch It?: A press screener.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.
My new reviews are being posted on POPAXIOM (popaxiom.com)!
I look at films as if through old red and blue 3D glasses— one lens is as art, one lens is as entertainment.
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