Mary Shelley was among the most important writers of the Romantic period, a time of intense political and social upheaval. But you wouldn’t know it based on this tepid biopic, which reduces the author of one of the most important gothic novels ever written to a simpering teen.

It’s 1814, London, and a 16-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft (Elle Fanning) is working in her father’s bookshop, but is more preoccupied with reading and emulating the gothic stories she loves. Her father is in mounting debt, and her shrewish stepmother (Joanne Froggatt) is growing increasingly impatient at Mary’s preference for flights of fancy over supporting the family business. Things get even more tense in the family when Mary meets the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Douglas Booth), who we’re told has radical politics, but whose cut-glass cheekbones are of more immediate interest to Mary.

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