#REVIEW: “MARY SHELLEY”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Mary Wollstonecroft (Elle Fanning) is a young woman with a passion for reading. She wants to write a book, but has not developed the voice she needs to make it her own. She is immediately smitten with poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth), and despite his being married, enters into a relationship with him. And as their love affair develops, it begins a series of events that will lead Mary to write the landmark science fiction Novel, Frankenstein.
From the opening scene, Mary Shelley is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Director Haifaa Al-Mansour fills each frame gorgeously, even during the darkest and grittiest of moments. She also does a great job making the Film feel as realistic to the time period as possible by experimenting with light and dark contrasts. The addition of drab colours and terrific costuming help strengthen the visuals exponentially and give the Film an aura of authenticity.
While it may look gorgeous, Mary Shelley fumbles in its storytelling. The feminist viewpoint adds to the Film’s intrigue, but it has no idea where or what to focus on. The entire first half lingers on the “romantic” relationship between Mary and her eventual husband Percy, and then meanders through the second half until she writes Frankenstein. Along the way, it drops a few hints and suggestions as to where Mary’s inspiration came from, but these moments are never treated with any form of importance. Worse, the moments of struggle and adversity she faces are surface level at best and lack the introspection and depth needed to fulfill the Film’s thesis of her being a feminist icon.
Everyone does their best with the material, but none can even attempt to rival Fanning. She shines through even the most mundane of moments, acting as compelling and exquisitely as she possibly can be at all times. She has a fire in her eyes and a ferocity in her movements that rise above the Script’s hindrances, and hints at what a strong character Mary could have been. She’s the best part of Mary Shelley, and I can only imagine how much better the Film could have been if it afforded Fanning the time to truly flourish within the role.
levelFILM release MARY SHELLEY in select theatres starting Friday, July 13, 2018.