Mary Shelley is a biopic of the romance between Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning), the author of Frankenstein, and the poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth).
When 16-year old Mary falls in love with Percy Shelley and elopes in secret with her half-sister Claire (Bel Powley) in tow, her family is dismayed and she is forced to live in scandal. Following a series of trials, including the death of Mary’s newborn baby, Mary, Percy and Claire spend a summer with fellow poet Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) in Geneva. There, Byron challenges them to write a ghost story, which inspires Mary to conceive her famed novel.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
Sexism; loss of family; alcohol abuse; polyamorous behaviours/attitudes
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
Mary Shelley has some violence. For example:
- Mary punches a male character after he tries to kiss her by force.
- Percy lunges at a male character, who slaps him hard.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, Mary Shelley has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:
- The bottom half of a dead frog is galvanised. Galvanism is electrical stimulation causing muscle contraction and movement.
- In a dream sequence, a human arm is galvanised. The arm has surgical pins in it.
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, Mary Shelley has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:
- The death of Mary’s mother is mentioned many times.
- Mary’s newborn baby dies. This isn’t shown.
- Mary is sent away from her family twice. The first time she goes to stay with relatives, and the second time she’s disinherited after running away with Percy.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.
Children in this age group might be disturbed by the following scenes:
- Characters refer to summoning the dead during a séance.
- A male character forcibly tries to kiss Mary. She struggles.
Mary Shelley has some sexual references. For example:
- Pornographic illustrations are briefly visible.
- Characters often talk about sexual activity.
- Two young female characters become pregnant.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Mary Shelley shows some use of substances. For example:
- Characters smoke pipes many times.
- Characters drink alcohol many times. This includes characters who are underage, at 16 years old.
- Characters behave drunkenly many times.
- Two male characters smoke shishas.
Nudity and sexual activity
Mary Shelley has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Mary and Percy kiss passionately several times.
- Mary and Percy have sex several times. No nudity is shown, and the scenes are generally brief.
- Lord Byron kisses Percy Shelley on the mouth.
Nothing of concern
Mary Shelley has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Mary Shelley is a relatively conventional historical romance, which is perhaps surprising for a biopic about this unconventional author.
Although its dialogue and story is clunky at times, the movie is likely to be enjoyed by adults and older teenagers. Younger viewers, however, might find it frightening, uninteresting and sexually explicit. Therefore Mary Shelley isn’t recommended for children under 13 years, and we also recommend parental guidance for younger teenagers.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- standing up for others
- striving to accomplish goals despite obstacles.
Mary Shelley could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- attitudes towards women
- the consequences of running away from home
- safe sex practices (particularly related to pregnancy)
- substance use and dependence.