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Mary Shelley

Haifaa al-Mansour

Saudi Arabian director Haifaa al-Mansour follows up her much- admired debut Wadjda with another film that celebrates and champions rebellious woman fighting to make their presence felt. Despite the common themes between the two works, the setting could not be more different in Mary Shelley, a historical costume drama about the young life of the famous Frankenstein writer.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is an unusually mature and poised 16-year-old. Drawn to ghost stories and graveyards, she has a passion for reading and a desire to write her own works. When she meets the radical poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth), she becomes convinced she’s met her soulmate. Defying the disapproval of her father William (Stephen Dillane), the youthful Mary leaves home to be with Shelley, accompanied by her boldly flirtatious stepsister Claire (Bel Powley) who soon endears herself to the mad, bad Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge). Deeply affected by the death of her mother, Mary’s fascination with the possibility of re-animating life and her sense of loneliness and abandonment feed into the construction of Frankenstein's famous, pitiful creature.

While contemporary resonances with Shelley’s story of a woman trying to be taken seriously in a man’s world are clear, there is also much period detail to enjoy on display. Atmospheric and brooding, Mary Shelley is ultimately the story of a woman finding her voice and asserting her independence.