Elle Fanning is Mary Shelley in a new trailer for a Gothic biopic recounting how an 18-year-old gave birth to Frankenstein and sci-fi.

News David Crow

Apr 13, 2018

If you ever want to measure the trajectory of your career, particularly in a creative field, consider that Mary Shelley (née Godwin) was already a mother when she wrote Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus… and just 18-years-old. What are you doing with your life, slacker?

Indeed, Mary Shelley’s entire life was a fast, epic, and ultimately tragic affair that is every bit as scandalous as her iconic story, which arguably gave birth to the science fiction genre. So it is somewhat shocking there has not been a sincere attempt at a biopic on the young woman, and the fast times she lived in with the Early Romantics, until now. Thus enter Mary Shelley, a new dramatic rendering with Elle Fanning that recounts how a teenage girl terrified her age (and every age since) with one of the definitive English novels.

Judging from the trailer, the film will hit the major beats: Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) was merely 16-years-old when she met one of the most popular poets of her day, Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth). And despite his being an older man (he was 21), he’d already been married and had a child. Still, Mary illicitly meets him upon the gravestone of her mother before eventually running away with Percy and her step-sister to live a life plagued with scandal, judgement, and brilliance. That includes her joining Percy and the rock star of his day, poet Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge), who was an infamy-seeking aristocrat they named anti-heroes after (ever heard the term “Byronic hero?”). It is at his summer house in Geneva that a contest is hatched to write the best ghost story, which in turn inspires Mary to write what is hands down the obvious winner.

The movie looks like a Gothic and proudly feminist interpretation of this journey, and also includes a cast that benefits from the inclusion of Bel Powley, Stephen Dillane, and Maisie Williams. The picture is also directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, who is credited with writing the screenplay with Emma Jensen.

Having previously played at the Toronto, Mary Shelley is next scheduled to bow at the Tribeca Film Festival before its release in select cities and on VOD on May 25.