Mary Shelley is a legitimate period piece that felt made to appeal to a young adult crowd. Imagine a biopic about one of the most famous writers in history told in a way that would appeal to both fans of Twilight and Interview with the Vampire and you get an idea of what to expect. I absolutely don't want the Twilight comparison to keep anyone from watching this, but it's the fan demographic I could most easily come up with.
Mary Wollstonecraft's family disapproves when she and poet Percy Shelley announce their love for each other. The family is horrified when it finds that the couple has eloped, accompanied by Mary's half-sister, Claire. While staying in the home of Lord Byron at Lake Geneva, the guests are challenged to write a ghost story, which leads Mary to conceive her novel Frankenstein.
All the leads in Mary Shelley are pretty, young, and attractive with perfect (moused) hair and stunning period costumes that fit each setting they're found in. The actors depict Mary Shelley, her sister Claire, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron as these rebellious, forward-thinking, counter-culture heroes who were both brilliant and flawed. They really come across as the rock stars or celebrities of their era. For example, I keep thinking the perfect companion piece for this film would be Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.
The filmmakers behind Mary Shelley perfectly craft the film to mirror the gothic atmosphere established in her most famous work, Frankenstein. The settings are dark and rainy for the most part and there's a sense of dread, death, and tragedy running throughout the film. The drama unfolds and almost becomes unbearable at times, mirroring how Mary and company must have felt actually going through it.
After doing some studying on Mary Shelley, everything we see here is pretty accurate to her life. Of course some events and characters have been shifted around and embellished upon to better service the pacing of a two-hour movie based on several years of a famous person's life. You get the main gist of the tale and where the writers were going to get their point across, while remaining as faithful as they could to the actual events that occured.
The cast are all invested in their roles within the framework of Mary Shelley. Each one fully embraces the eccentricities of their individual character. You can tell they studied up on the personality they're taking on and formed some sort of emotional tie to them. All the actors, except one that I noticed, in the movie are British. This makes total sense, being that most of the film is rooted in 19th century Europe.
Strangely, American Elle Fanning was chosen to portray the lead. Filmmakers must have REALLY wanted her to play Mary Shelley, which makes sense. She is one of today's most famous and gifted young faces in Hollywood. However, they could have found a British actor to play her and it's a testament to her talents that they chose to go with her instead.
Mary Shelley is rated PG-13 for sexuality and thematic elements including substance abuse. There are a few brief sex scenes throughout the film. We also see quite a bit of drinking and smoking.
The Blu-ray and DVD versions of Mary Shelley contain "The Making of Mary Shelley" featurette and a trailer for the film. The featurette is very informative and takes you behind the scenes of the film. There are interviews with the cast and crew and set footage delving deeper into thew inspiration behind the production.
Mary Shelley was directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour from a script by Emma Jensen and Al-Mansour. It stars Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent), Douglas Booth (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jupiter Ascending), Bel Powley (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, A Royal Night Out), Ben Hardy (X-Men: Apocalypse, Only the Brave), Tom Sturridge (Far From the Madding Crowd, On the Road), and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones, The Book of Love). Running time for the movie is 120 minutes.