(Release Info London schedule; July 6th, 2018, Curzon Cinemas)
"Mary Shelley" tells the story of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning), author of one of the world’s most famous Gothic novels ‘Frankenstein’, and her fiery, tempestuous relationship with renowned romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth.) The pair are two outsiders constrained by polite society but bound together by a natural chemistry and progressive ideas that are beyond the boundaries of their age and time. Mary and Percy declare their love for each other and much to her family's horror they run away together, joined by Mary's half-sister Claire (Bel Powley.) In the midst of growing tension within their relationship during their stay at Lord Byron's (Tom Sturridge) house at Lake Geneva, the idea of 'Frankenstein' is conceived when a challenge is put to all houseguests to write a ghost story. An incredible character is created, which will loom large in popular culture for centuries to come, but society at the time puts little value in female authors. At the tender age of 18, Mary is forced to challenge these preconceptions, to protect her work and to forge her own identity.
This film is about the arc of Mary’s journey transitioning from a young girl into an adult and a creator in her own right, saying; it’s a story of a girl growing up and finding her voice and stepping out of the shadows of her family. She's a free spirit, powerful and very attentive, she picks up on all things, she's curious and very observant. It goes from Mary being essentially a teenager to stepping into womanhood and standing for something that she has created, bucking the conventional norms of her society. Mary is not perfect, and makes questionable choices and mistakes throughout her journey. But she does not give in to disappointment or the agony of loss, she just pushes forward. She's an example of someone who takes the weight of misery and transforms it into a personal and profound work of art. It would have been very easy for her to give up at any point along the way, or to defer to her accomplished parents or brilliant husband, but she decided ultimately to find her own voice.
Percy Shelley is a complex character, a strange blend of charismatic genius, romantic poet, scandalous rebel and wildly irresponsible maverick. Percy Shelley is an anarchist; he wants to be a revolutionary. He’s much more than just this lover, this romantic poet, he's a flawed character. He has so many traits that are wonderful but there are so many that are just devastating for the people around him. He's constantly pursued by his demons and his desire to live a life that's so unconventional in those days. Percy is a man who walks into a room and women swooned. There's a scene between Mary and Percy when first she confronts him about his potential infidelity, it’s the moment in the story where Mary grows up. Lord Byron is broke and brave, unpredictable and passionate. He's an astonishing historical figure. These women, Claire and Mary, are incredibly forward thinking for their age and their time. They're like hippies in the sixties, they're ahead of their time.
Relationships are the foundation of "Mary Shelley", providing a framework within which Mary craves out her own identity, pushing back against the expectations of society, the legacy of her parents and the overshadowing prowess of her partner. The various relationships that exist throughout this film, between Mary and her father William Godwin (Stephen Dillane), Mary and her sister Claire, the relationship between Mary and Percy, Claire and Lord Byron, Lord Byron and Percy, Lord Byron and John Polidori (Ben Hardy), Polidori and Mary and finally the interconnecting relationships between all the main characters Mary, Claire, Percy and Byron, underpin this film. Claire’s relationship with Mary is complicated. Perhaps Claire wants to be Mary. She's not jealous of her but she tried to emulate her. If Mary gets Shelley, then Claire will get Byron! But they love each other unconditionally even though they're half-sisters. She's in awe of Mary but she loves and adores her. They're ying and yang. In life and the reality of them is that one is a bit more elegant and erudite and educated and the other is more wild and frivolous but together they created a specific energy. Claire is not as formidable as Mary but without a doubt there's real love between these two half-sisters, they protect one another. The only parental figure in Mary’s life is her father, so when he dismisses all her writing it’s like a dagger to her heart. A man who's so respected in his field not believing in his daughter is so hard for her to take. All she wants is recognition from him.
Percy is the one for her. With him she feels that they can take on the world and all that it throws at them, and they will be okay because they've each other. There are times she certainly questions her beliefs. But ultimately, she knows their love, this mad, huge crazy love story, is strong enough to withstand what's thrown at them. Being with Mary is for Percy a challenge, he challenges her to live this life with him. She's incredibly smart, had this fresh sexuality, she has a cheekiness to her and so he fell in love with this vision. Percy looks up to Byron; he's in awe of him. Byron is a star and at the time Percy really respected him and the way he's and what he stands for. Their relationship, if indeed you can call it that, is relatively complicated and quite unbalanced. Claire’s perceptions of it are potentially very different to Byron’s. Claire is a very determined woman, she doesn’t take no for an answer, she knows what she wants and it's Byron and even though it ends badly for her she believes in herself. Claire is not the bimbo of the trio; she's not a dumb little sister, she's very smart and she's fighting to make her mark in this trio. Their's an unconventional relationship, they live as a unit and there's clearly a close-ness between all three of them. Polidori’s relationship with Mary is kind of the antithesis of her relationship with Percy. He's the bad guy.
"Mary Shelley" is an English period film about the story of a young girl growing up who's trying to find her voice, surrounded by superstition that she wants to break free of. Mary was only 18 when she created and wrote 'Frankenstein'. The story essentially subverts everything that we think we know about the early 1800’s in England. We're blown away by the strength and fight that this extremely young woman found within her, and that the life of "Mary Shelley" is a powerful story that feels very relevant right now. Although set in the 1800’s, her journey is so modern and relevant to today’s world. Mary has a story to tell but society is not letting her tell it. Mary is the center of the piece and she's such a strong feminine force within a community. heavily dominated by men. It's split into two facets, Mary and 'The Monster'. Within Mary there's the love story with Percy, her strengths, her disappointments her huge loss and her inspiration. 'The Monster' theme is more about the ghost stories Mary herself is obsessed with, the otherworldliness and ultimately the darkness that 'The Monster' in-habits within her.
She grows up in this very conservative culture, where women’s roles were much more rigid and opportunities were extremely limited. But she rose above it, and wrote a story that continues to capture the imagination of readers to this day. She chose to write a book that's so outside of the acceptable realms of literature for women, and created a genre that continues to be dominated by male voices. She writes a book that challenged religious doctrine and raised new ethical questions about the impact of uninhibited scientific experimentation would have on a society. Although they're set in two different times and worlds, Mary’s story does have some very interesting parallels to "Wadjda’s". Both young women were struggling against conservative social structures in order to pursue the lives they wanted to live. They're both women who unapologetically follow their hearts, against the norms and expectations of their societies, without compromise to achieve a personal triumph. What's interesting about this film is that you’re dealing with people who very much rebelled against and revolted against the kind of conformity of the period; these guys were free.
Although the film is a period drama set in the 1800’s "Mary Shelley" has a very modern message. It’s about the emancipation of a young girl’s soul and that whatever period you're in you can recognize that desire for freedom. It’s a coming of age story about a girl who through her own life experience is able to express through her writing how the various conflicts and de-mons that she has to deal with comes to the fore. A young woman trying to find and own her voice, and that’s massively universal whether it takes place 200 years ago or two weeks ago. And you know 'Frankenstein' is also the precursor to all of science fiction and was written by a woman. The film is in a period of time of a couple of hundred years ago but you can relate to it now. They're pushing boundaries, take away the costumes and there's something in the film that every 18 or 19- year-old will relate to. Her life story is an important aspect of 'The Frankenstein' legacy, and it's a beloved work to so many people for so many different reasons. The film focuses on aspects of her personal journey that may not be that well known but are key to truly understanding everything that went into her writing. The journey of Frankenstein’s monster reflects many of the tragic events of her own life.
"Mary Shelley" is the remarkable true story of a woman who railed against the constraints of her society to create a story that would outlive the work of her contemporaries, including her brilliant parents and husband, to influence generations of writers and dreamers with an entirely new genre; science fiction. Her own story feels so strangely familiar because so much of it ended up allegorically in 'Frankenstein'. We all know the basic story, but her journey reveals so many layers and deeper philosophical elements that help explain the work’s appeal. A modern-day example is J.K. Rowling. Many of the problem’s that Mary Shelley faced continue to challenge women today. Philosophically the way in which Mary went after what she wanted in her life, without regard to moral or societal limitations, was extremely shocking to the public in her time.
Whereas the same behavior would perhaps be more acceptable for a man, public pressure to be chaste and morally pure is still something that women struggle with today. Sadly, even her struggles to publish her book under her own name show a societal reluctance to embrace works of science, horror, or other traditionally ‘masculine’ themes from a female writer that continue to this day. Look at a book like 'The Outsiders'. Sarah Hinton had to abbreviate her name to S.E. Hinton so readers wouldn't know her gender just by looking at the cover. Whenever women write something out-side of the realm of acceptable topics for the gender-romance, cook books, children’s books, we see that there's still a long way to go in unrestricting the potential of the female voice in our society.