Mary Shelley

image for Mary Shelley

Short takes

Not recommended under 13, parental guidance recommended 13 to 15 due to themes, sexual references, some frightening imagery and lack of interest

classification logo

This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mary Shelley
  • a review of Mary Shelley completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 9 July 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to sexual references, some frightening imagery, and lack of interest.
Children 13 to 15 Parental guidance recommended due to themes and sexual references.
Viewers 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Mary Shelley
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes, sex scenes, and coarse language
Length: 120 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

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 loss of Mary’s newborn, the three 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.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Sexism, loss of family, alcohol abuse, polyamorous behaviours/attitudes

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Mary punches a man after he tries to kiss her by force.
  • Percy lunges at a man who slaps him hard

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Galvanism (electrical stimulation causing muscle contraction and movement) of the bottom half of a dead frog
  • Galvanism of a human arm is shown during a dream sequence (the arm has surgical pins in it)

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • The death of Mary’s mother is mentioned on numerous occasions
  • Mary’s newborn baby dies (not shown)
  • Mary is sent away from her family twice – the first to stay with relatives and the second when she is disinherited after running away with Percy

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Reference to summoning the dead via séance
  • A male character forcibly tries to kiss Mary – she struggles

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Pornographic illustrations are briefly visible
  • Frequent reference to sexual activity is made in conversation between central characters
  • Two young female characters become pregnant during the film

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Mary and Percy kiss passionately on a number of occasions
  • Mary and Percy have sex on several occasions – No nudity is shown, and the scenes are generally brief
  • Lord Byron kisses Percy Shelley on the mouth

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Pipe smoking is shown on numerous occasions
  • Central characters drink alcohol on numerous occasions (including underage characters – 16 years old)
  • Central characters behave drunkenly on numerous occasions
  • Shisha smoking by two male characters is shown

Coarse language

There is some coarse language, including "whore-monger".

In a nutshell

Mary Shelley is a relatively conventional period romance, perhaps surprising for a biopic about the prolific and unconventional reformist author.  While clunky at times in dialogue and story, the film is likely to be enjoyed by adults and older teenagers but should be considered with caution for younger viewers, who may find it frightening, uninteresting, and sexually explicit. The film is not recommended for children under 13 and parental guidance is recommended for younger teens. 

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • standing up for others
  • striving to accomplish goals despite obstacles

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • attitudes towards women
  • the consequences of running away from home
  • understanding safe-sex behaviours (particularly related to pregnancy)
  • the real-life consequences of  substance use and dependence