Elle Fanning stars in this scintillating biopic of the Frankenstein author, chronicling her tempestuous marriage to dissolute poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the fateful night at a Swiss chateau that inspired her most famous creation.
Haifaa Al Mansour
Directed by Haifaa Al Mansour (Wadjda) and starring Elle Fanning, Mary Shelley depicts the author as a fiercely modern 19th-century woman, and her Frankenstein as the product of unbridled imagination and profound grief.
Daughter of political philosophers William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, who died giving birth to her, Mary (Fanning) is a bookish adolescent of humble means when she meets Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth), who, though only 21, is already a celebrated young poet — and a shameless womanizer with one collapsing marriage already under his belt. Defying her beloved but disapproving father, Mary absconds with Shelley — her stepsister, Claire (Bel Powley), in tow. Mary seeks "unconventional approaches to living," and finds it in spades with her debt-ridden bon vivant scribe, who desires neither monogamy nor the constraints of fatherly responsibility. Yet Percy believes in Mary, and two years into their union he whisks her away to a Swiss chateau for a summer of debauchery presided over by Lord Byron, where Mary will confront personal demons and compose the most influential horror novel of all time.
As Saudi Arabia's first female filmmaker, Al Mansour is as much a pioneer as her heroine. She renders Mary Shelley as a sumptuous and intoxicating proto-feminist tale of fearless self-actualization and fiery creativity.