Mary Shelley (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Haifaa al-Mansour|
|Written by||Emma Jensen|
|Music by||Amelia Warner|
|Edited by||Alex Mackie|
|Box office||$1.9 million|
Mary Shelley is a 2017 romantic period-drama film directed by Haifaa al-Mansour and written by Emma Jensen. The plot follows Mary Shelley's first love and her romantic relationship with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, which inspired her to write Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. An international co-production, the film stars Elle Fanning as Shelley, with Maisie Williams, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, and Ben Hardy in supporting roles.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2017. It was released in the United States on May 25, 2018, by IFC Films, and in the United Kingdom on July 6, 2018, by Curzon Artificial Eye.
Mary Godwin was the daughter of the pioneering feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and her husband, the publisher and political philosopher William Godwin. Mary Wollstonecraft had died shortly after giving birth, and when the film opens 16 years later Mary Godwin is living with her father, her stepmother (with whom she has a strained relationship), and her half-sister and close confidante Claire Clairmont.
On an extended visit to Scotland, Mary meets and falls in love with the radical and unconventional poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who is already married. The couple elope, taking Claire with them. Shelley has little money of his own, but borrows against his wealthy father's estate to set themselves up in lavish style in Bloomsbury. At a dinner party, Shelley flirts with Claire, and Mary is propositioned by one of Shelley's friends. When she complains, Shelley tells her that in his view lovers should be free. He wants her to take other partners, and demands the same freedom for himself. He calls her a hypocrite, and she expresses her disappointment in him. Later, Mary, Claire and Shelley attend a public display of galvanism in which a dead frog is made to twitch by the application of electricity. Also in the audience is the handsome and famous poet Lord Byron. Claire introduces herself, and is smitten.
One night, Shelley's creditors arrive unexpectedly, and Mary, Claire and Shelley have to flee. They take up cheap lodgings. Mary gives birth, but her baby does not survive for long. Claire announces that she is pregnant by Byron, and that he has invited them all to stay with him at a villa near Geneva. When they arrive, Byron makes it clear that the "invitation" is little more than Claire's wishful thinking. He invites them to stay in any event.
The poor weather keeps them indoors for days, and one evening Byron challenges the group to write a ghost story, a task which captures Mary's imagination and causes her to dream of galvanism. A message arrives for Shelley informing him that his wife has just drowned herself. Throughout the visit, Byron treats Claire with increasing contempt. She loses patience and confronts him that he has no right to treat her so, but he laughingly tells her that his affair with her was a mere dalliance, and that he has no interest in her, devastating her. He informs her and Mary that he will provide financially for the baby, but nothing more.
The three return to their lodgings in England, and Mary starts to write a novel, Frankenstein. The stresses drive Mary and Shelley apart. No publisher will take the work under Mary's name as it is considered unsuitable subject-matter for a lady, but with the addition of a foreword by Shelley it is eventually accepted for anonymous publication. The book is a success, with Shelley initially being given the credit until he publicly announces the name of the true author. The couple reconnect.
In the last scene of the film Mary, dressed in black, is seen walking with a young son. An afterword explains that Mary and Shelley had married, and that they stayed together until Shelley's death at the age of 29. Mary never married again.
- Elle Fanning as Mary Shelley
- Douglas Booth as Percy Bysshe Shelley
- Tom Sturridge as Lord Byron
- Bel Powley as Claire Clairmont
- Stephen Dillane as William Godwin
- Ben Hardy as John William Polidori
- Maisie Williams as Isabel Baxter
- Joanne Froggatt as Mary Jane Clairmont
- Derek Riddell as William Baxter
- Hugh O'Conor as Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Mary Shelley (changed from the original title, A Storm in the Stars, in January 2017) is based on an original screenplay by Australian screenwriter Emma Jensen. Jensen received development funding from Screen NSW and Screen Australia to develop the screenplay to first draft and her US agents, United Talent Agency, sold the screenplay to US producer Amy Baer. On February 28, 2014, director Haifaa al-Mansour was set to direct the film.
On July 30, 2014, Elle Fanning was cast in the film to play Mary Shelley. The Diary of a Teenage Girl star Bel Powley joined the film on March 20, 2015, to play Claire Clairmont, Mary's stepsister, who complicates the relationship between both lovers. On May 8, 2015, Douglas Booth was cast in the film to play the role of Percy, while HanWay Films was on board to produce the film and handle the film's international sales. On February 19, 2016, Ben Hardy joined the film, which would be also produced by Alan Moloney and Ruth Coady of Parallel Films. On March 2, 2016, Tom Sturridge, Maisie Williams, Stephen Dillane, and Joanne Froggatt joined the cast.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2017. Shortly after, IFC Films and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired U.S. and U.K. distribution rights to the film, respectively. The film had its American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 28, 2018.
Mary Shelley grossed $97,321 in the United States and Canada, and $1.8 million in other territories, for a total worldwide of $1.9 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 39% based on 119 reviews, with an average rating of 5.47/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Mary Shelley smooths out its subject's fascinating life and fails to communicate the spark of her classic work, undermining fine period detail and a solid Elle Fanning performance." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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- Jafaar, Ali (May 20, 2015). "Curzon Artificial Eye Acquires 'Son of Saul', 'Mustang' And 'A Storm In The Stars'- Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
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