• 16 Jun - 22 Jun, 2018
  • Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
  • Reviews

Before Mary Shelley – the adaptation of novelist Mary Shelley’s life starring Elle Fanning – moves towards its completion, there is a dramatic conversation between Mary and her partner Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). Mary, the young daughter of William Godwin (an esteemed journalist and novelist), had run away to live with Percy at the age of 16. Percy, who was already married, was known for his philandering nature – especially if the woman was of a young age. Percy had eloped with his wife Harriet when she was young (and with whom he has a daughter). But the fire wasn’t there anymore; apparently, Mary had that fire – though like most immature youngsters fail to comprehend, life isn’t all immaculate love and burning sensations.

The conversation Mary has may be familiar to most women and their desires. Every woman wants comfort and security. Every man has that tingling sensation to be set free. And herein lies life’s biggest lesson.

Mary Shelley, written by Emma Jensen and directed by Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour, is a sensible, restrained and farsighted account of Mary Shelley’s life, and how it manifested with the creation of her novel Frankenstein.

However, don’t mistake the film as a feminist plight in the world dominated by men. Mary’s life is, more or less, a reflection of every woman’s basic desires. Time and era is arbitrary to these fundamentals.

Elle Fanning (Super 8, Maleficent) holds the screen quite well, letting al-Mansour guide her through a very strict set of narrative motions. Booth, as the renowned poet Percy, is a perfect embodiment of most men’s juvenility…if we were given the right opportunity.

Al-Mansour drafts Mary’s story with a perfectly balanced tone, slipping in crafty non-linear editorial beats, and appropriate gravity to the theme and people at the right scenes. The film doesn’t feel like a biography; it, instead, shares a subliminal semblance to Mary’s book Frankenstein, which in turn was a manifestation of Mary’s inner turmoil.

I’d suggest a reading of Frankenstein (or at least reading its and Mary Shelley’s, Wikipedia pages) before watching the film. The story will grapple you more that way. •