Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mary Shelley Review

Picture it. Gathered at a gothic manor house for a weekend of drinking and free love canoodling are Mary Shelley (Mary Godwin at this point), her soon to be husband Percy Shelley and the infamous Lord Byron, among others. Spurred by a contest as to who could tell the scariest ghost story, Mary creates the iconic character of Frankenstein. Maybe I didn't pay enough attention to the trailer because that was the movie I was expecting and this is not that.

Mary Shelley is much more conventional telling of the life story of the woman known to some as the creator of modern science fiction. Mary was born from the unconventional relationship between the writers William Godwin (Stephen Dillane) and Mary Wollstonecraft who died during childbirth. You can read the word "unconventional" to mean the two never married. This means Mary grows up with a impressive literary pedigree but under the constant judgement of scandal. At age 16 she meets and falls hard for the rich, handsome poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). She eventually finds out though that his idea of their romance is that he spends his time being a drunken man-whore while she stays home and takes care of their newborn. It's that moment that has happened many time before and continues to this day. You find out that the sexy bad boy has turned into just a bad life choice. The ups and downs of their relationship continue until that fateful weekend they spend with Lord Byron. It's true that a sleepless night there does give way to nightmares that seem to inspire her Frankenstein story but most of the screen time is just hashing out her domestic dramas with Percy. She decided to finally leave him and begins to work on Frankenstein in earnest. Telling Percy at one point that she is most qualified to write about a monster because she has been living with one (ouch!).

To give an opinion of this movie I have to separate what I thought it would be with what it actually is. It certainly lacked a real look at what was going on in Mary's mind that lead her to pen a dramatic, macabre and ultimately beautiful story. She's seen entertaining younger relatives with late night ghost stories and scribbling down stories while hanging out in a graveyard but that all seems a bit shallow. What Goth girl worth her salt hasn't done those things. In this way I'm disappointed. However it's not all a loss. The acting is good all around. I'm particularly impressed by Tom Sturridge in his small amount of screen time as Lord Byron. The time period is portrayed in a realistic, gritty way but nods to the romantic notions of the age. The costuming is gorgeous and everyone has a pallor that says consumption might be right around the corner. So, for the movie I was hoping to watch I give this a C but for what it turned out to be I'll say a B-.