Top positive review
Elle Fanning shines as Mary Shelley
4 September 2018
The novel “Frankenstein” has never been faithfully adapted for the big screen so perhaps it’s no surprise that this biopic plays fast and loose with the facts of the life of its author, Mary Shelley. For example, Mary didn’t write “Frankenstein” in one night as this movie suggests, but took about sixteen months to do so. Harriet Shelley didn’t commit suicide while her husband and Mary were in Geneva but when they were back in England. And Fanny Imlay, Mary’s older step-sistîer who also lived in the Godwin home, is written out of this film altogether. There are several other changes to, or omissions from, Mary Shelley’s life throughout this movie. So long as you don’t mind some serious artistic license there is much to enjoy here.
Director Haifaa al-Mansour’s successfully captures Mary’s life in broad strokes. He is also served by a great cast: Elle Fanning and Douglas Booth shine in their respective roles as Mary and Shelley, and are given able support by Bel Powley as Mary’s other step-sister Claire Clairmont. Tom Sturridge plays Lord Byron with scenery-chewing gusto, but perhaps that’s how Byron was; it’s certainly how he is always portrayed. Ben Hardy’s performance lends John Polidori a quiet dignity although his moving, final meeting with Mary is, alas, entirely fictional. The various elements that inspired Mary’s writing of “Frankenstein” - the loss of her daughter Clara, her estrangement from her father, the science and philosophies of the day - are all effectively portrayed .
My only disappointment is that the film ends with the publication of “Frankenstein”. It may have been her biggest success, then and now, but a life so full of tragedy, drama and later triumph deserves to be told in its entirety.