Film Review: A Nightmare Wakes

Mary Shelley, nee Wollstonecraft, knew what it’s like to be a woman scorned. For decades she was considered just a bit player in a group which included husband Percy and Lord Byron, often also overshadowed by her parents (William Godwin & Mary Wollstonecraft). Even after writing Frankenstein, she was constantly undermined by questions over its authorship. However, her body of work has recently been reappraised and reassessed. A Nightmare Wakes tells the story of her literary stirrings.

Mary Wollstonecraft (Alix Wilton Regan) is holidaying in Europe with her lover (the poet) Percy Shelley (Giullian Yao Gioiello) and stepsister Claire Clairmont (Claire Glassford); avoiding the scandal of their affair. In 1816, the trio summer with Lord Byron (Philippe Bowgen) near Geneva. Whilst writing Frankenstein in the middle of an opium-induced fever dream, her characters begin to haunt her waking moments.

While A Nightmare Wakes dabbles in the Gothic which gave root to much of Shelley’s work, at its heart Nora Unkel’s film is a drama about a woman struggling to come to terms with her inner demons. Marys unhappiness with her marriage and life spills out into hallucinations and delusions. Her characters begin to take over, driving her to the pit of despair. A Nightmare Wakes tackles a familiar story from an unusual angle, with mixed results.

A Nightmare Wakes comes to Shudder on 4 February.

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