Mary Shelley – Review [Tribeca 2018]

Mary Shelley is playing at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Find screening information HERE.

By Matthew Parkinson

In case you ever wanted to know why Frankenstein was written, now you can watch Mary Shelley and fall asleep before actually finding out. This is a movie that tries to put us in the mind of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning), the author of Frankenstein, but fails to do it and instead becomes another boring British biopic.

The core issue is that Mary isn’t a character with whom we can sympathize. Since she and everyone else talks like a walking thesaurus, she never feels like a real person. The film features events that, logically, we can understand make her feel isolated and alone in the world. Emotionally, though, we never see it. She rarely reacts with emotions, and even when she does they’re transmitted with I’m-smarter-than-you dialogue that will remind you of every pretentious writer friend you’ve had who can throw a couple of multi-syllable words together because he’s too insecure about his writing to use simpler words.

Mary Shelley is a dull movie, too, in large part because none of the emotional bits resonate. There are odd leaps in time that characters have to explain away, awkwardly. “Hey, isn’t it cool how I’ve already been here for weeks?” Things like that. The acting is fine, and there are some laughs to be had—some intentional and many more unintentional—but mostly you’ll be rolling your eyes at the dialogue or trying to stay awake through the story.

This is a boring British biopic—a genre I want to be officially recognized. You’d be better off just reading about Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin on the internet than watching Mary Shelley.

I give Mary Shelley a D+.


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