'Mary Shelley': not as effervescent as it could have been

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It is a bit strange that nobody had ever thought to make a film about Mary Shelley. Two hundred years ago, as a very young woman, she dashed off one of the classics of world literature: Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.

Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, is considered one of the very first feminist philosophers, but she died shortly after her daughter’s birth. Shelley’s father, William Godwin, was a man of letters and an advocate of anarchism. All of London was scandalized when she ran away from home to shack up with a married aristocrat with radical ideas, who would himself become one of England’s great poets: Percy Bysshe Shelley.

She came up with Frankenstein after the eccentric poet Lord Byron challenged her. The film script enumerates the facts very faithfully, with special attention for the occasionally intense emotions in her turbulent life and for the inspired and passionate young woman’s struggle for emancipation.

Director Haifaa Al-Mansour, the woman who put Saudi Arabia on the cinematic map with Wadjda, likewise avoids any risks and doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. This period drama is not as effervescent as it could have been, but it does look good and it is always a pleasure to watch the charismatic Elle Fanning.

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