(AMC+/VOD)? This is the first in a three-part series of recommendations regarding films about Mary Shelley.

At this point, I’ve seen more films about Mary Shelley than I’ve seen FRANKENSTEIN adaptations. That makes sense though, as Mary Shelley is endlessly fascinating. This take on her life is from Haifaa Al-Mansour (WADJDA, and the previously recommended THE PERFECT CANDIDATE) and starts off surprisingly early in Mary’s life, before she meets Percy, immediately giving Mary her own autonomy.

I’m sure many have their image of what they expect for someone portraying Mary Shelley, but I don’t, and I have no qualms with Elle Fanning’s portrayal. It’s sharp, and Fanning exudes a haunted quality, and how she darts her eyes in specific scenes plays rather effectively.

Al-Mansour rightfully leans on how much of a dick Percy (Douglas Booth) is — especially concerning his constant bullying about having an open relationship — but she also casts Mary’s stepsister Claire (Bel Powley) in a rather unglamorous light, portraying her as a foolish girl who latches onto Mary and simply won’t let go until she latches onto Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge). In short, this is less a piece about Mary Shelley writing FRANKENSTEIN and more about Mary herself, and it’s a welcome relief.

While the majority of the film is finely executed, the end narratively dodges quite a bit in order to squarely land something resembling an uplifting ending. While it doesn’t feel entirely disingenuous, it does feel far too neat.

“There is always another way. And when we make such choices, there are inevitably consequences.”