Author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was raised by her father, William Godwin, a radical philosopher and one of the earliest proponents of modern anarchism. Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote a groundbreaking book of early feminist theory, but died shortly after her daughter’s birth. Shrouded by death and informed by groundbreaking intellectual creativity, the events of Shelley’s life up until the writing of her most famous book, FRANKENSTEIN, are themselves as fascinating as a gothic novel.
The new film by pioneering female Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour
, MARY SHELLEY is the story of the life of the author - her life, loves, tragedies and works. Against the tide of a deeply conservative society, Mary Shelley (Elle Fanning) challenges the authority that works to stifle female voices as indelible as hers. Her affair and marriage with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth) are shown within this context as well.
DIrector Haifaa al-Mansour shares much in common with the film’s protagonist. Much like Mary Shelley in her time, the director of MARY SHELLEY faces the unique hardship of existing in a country where being a woman and being an artist requires a constant struggle to be heard. Al-Mansour herself reflects on growing up in Saudi Arabia, “the culture is such that women are invisible, they don’t matter.” In realizing the systemic sexism of her culture, the director took up filmmaking as a way of coping with these hardships when she made her first film.
Here are some selections from the reviews of the film:“The director and her star make their point... plainly, cleanly, and with fire.” Ty Burr, Boston Globe
“The tumultuous stew of emotions inside Mary grows to a roiling boil before it all comes pouring out.” Katie Walsh, LA Times
“Rather than smother Mary Shelley — author of “Frankenstein,”daughter of two eminent writers and wife of another — with soft cushions of antiquarian cultural prestige, Ms. al-Mansour and the screenwriter, Emma Jensen, sharpen the sense of Shelley’s modernity. It helps enormously that she is played with alert sensitivity and acute intelligence by Elle Fanning." - A.O. Scott, New York Times
“Elle Fanning deftly shades the trials and tribulations of the young writer and her complicated relationship with Percy Shelley...Fanning and Booth’s chemistry is blindingly intense. Through it all, Al-Mansour sharply captures this makeshift family’s wild swings from revelry to desperation to inspiration.” Jason Bailey, Village Voice