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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Some iffy behavior/decisions, but positive messages include the idea that women and their talents should be treated as equal to men and their talents. Also encourages open and honest communication between romantic partners and strong bonds between sisters/friends.
Positive Role Models
Mary perseveres despite many challenges (especially grief) to write her book. She cares for her husband, stepsister, and baby to the best of her ability. Percy and Lord Byron are brilliant but flawed, though ultimately Percy does treat Mary with respect for her talent and ability. Mary and Percy love each other despite their different attitudes toward monogamy. Claire exhibits signs of poor self-esteem.
Violence & Scariness
Mary slaps someone who propositions her. Terrible/upsetting scene in which it's obvious that Mary and Percy's baby has died. Mary, Percy, and Claire run in a panic from debt collectors. Discussion of suicide and child death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Several scenes of passionate kissing; love scenes on beds that show half-dressed couples having sex. A woman discusses being a prominent man's lover and then getting pregnant by him. Mary and Percy discuss then-radical views (some of which were also held by her late mother) about polyamory, open marriage, ménages à trois, etc.
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Coded language and insults like "ruined," "coward," "immoral," etc.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink (a few characters to extreme excess) and smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mary Shelley is a historical drama that stars Elle Fanning as the titular 19th-century author. The movie centers on Mary's love story with married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth) and the various events that inspired her to persevere and write her masterpiece, Frankenstein. There's some romance and sex (including a few love scenes featuring half-dressed couples), as well as alcohol/substance use and discussions of relationships and situations that were considered scandalous at the time (polyamory, etc.). Viewers will learn a great deal about both Mary and her husband and others in their circle of young, often controversial artists and writers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Fanning's performance shows off her talent, but the movie makes you yearn to learn more about the author's post-Frankenstein transformation. Director Haifaa Al-Mansour's exploration of Mary's scandalous love affair with Percy and the subsequent life challenges leading up to the writing of the book that changed her life isn't nearly as exquisite as her directorial debut, Wadjda, but it's also a feminist tribute to a young woman who was ahead of her time. Mary's state of mind swings from thrilled and excited to miserable and heartbroken, and the visuals signal that shift as well.
The film spends a bit too much time covering the more salacious aspects of the Shelleys' forbidden romance and not enough time on the reasons that Mary stayed with the beautiful, brilliant, but damaged genius Shelley. Although writer Emma Jensen and Al-Mansour's choice to delay depicting Shelley's writing of Frankenstein until the end of the movie is understandable, it would have been more satisfying to see more of how the book's publication (with her actual name attached) changed her life. Still, despite its flaws, Mary Shelley remains worth seeing for the riveting facts about the groundbreaking writer's backstory.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.