Mary Shelley (Movie 2017)

Shelley3 Snoozing Kernels

I have wanted to see this movie for some time and finally decided to stream it this evening off Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 rental fee. Cheaper than a ticket at the theatre, I thought it well worth the watch.  It’s well-acted, a bit of a downer emotionally, but gives great insights to the literary greats of the time period.

If you have no idea who in the world Mary Shelley is (played by Elle Fanning), I’m sure if I say the title of Frankenstein, that will ring a familiar bell. The Gothic masterpiece, originally written in 1818, with subsequent editions in 1823 and 1831, was “supposedly” written by Mary.  However, there is an ongoing debate on how much her lover/husband (Percy Shelley played by Douglas Booth) contributed to the story.

As far as this movie is concerned, the novel was birthed through her own painful life that included falling in love with Percy, the famous published poet, while he was still married. Through betrayal, the grief of loss of their first child, and subsequent disappointments, the men in her life became monsters in a sense. The story of Frankenstein mirrors much of the pain she felt as well as a sordid affair her stepsister had with Percy and also Lord Byron.

It doesn’t appear that the movie closely follows the true timeline of everything in Mary’s and Percy’s life. Once again Wikipedia tells a slightly different version and this fact-checking article on Refinery29.  Although Mary and Percy finally married after his first wife committed suicide, their existence waffled back and forth from adequate means to poverty. Percy drowned before he turned thirty, so their romance was not an enduring one.

Mary’s stepsister had an affair with Lord Byron and bore him a daughter out of wedlock. The movie does focus on their relationship as well. Tom Sturridge plays Byron as morally bankrupt with a personality that is almost sickening.  Byron doesn’t come across in this movie as one of the greatest English poets of his time, but more of a man steeped in debauchery.

What I find interesting in these famous individuals who wrote such lasting poems and novels is that they led such radical and free-spirited lives. Immorality, drinking, drugs — you name it. However, they also suffered terrible consequences and grief because of their actions.

The movie moves a bit slow and spends too much time with scenes at Byron’s residence in Switzerland, which are a bit of a snoozer. It probably could have been heavily cut and undoubtedly influenced the 38% on the Tomatometer. On the positive note, your ears do get tickled with some fine poems written by the greats and words from Mary’s Gothic tale.

“And the sunlight clasps the earth. And the moonbeams kiss the sea. What are all these kissings worth – If thou kiss not me?” (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

They say to write what you know, and if you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you will read what she knew – love, betrayal, abandonment, and grief wrapped up in her creation of a monster.

If you are into period dramas and the lives of famous writers, you might check this one out.  Mary found her voice, as they say, on the page.  Mine comes and goes like a ghost from book to book. Nevertheless, I enjoy movies about the lives of some of the famous authors of the past.

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