Elle Fanning stars as the title character in MARY SHELLY, the new film that explores the real creator of Frankenstein. No, we're not talking about Dr. Frankenstein here, we're speaking of Mary Shelley, who started this future masterpiece when she was only 18. She's a teenager who was fond of spooky stories and helps out at her family's bookstore. Her mother has died at birth and her father, William Godwin (Stephen Dilane), sends her away to Scotland where she meets her first love, poet Percey Shelley (Douglas Booth). He's older and married, so a traditional romance is out of the question. But a romance begins none the less. She ends up, with her stepsister Claire (Bel Powley) by her side, running away from him and finding out that a fairy tale ending is far from the projected path of her story.


The film is shot beautifully but fails to really latch onto who Mary was, or what drove her and inspired her spark of genius. The juiciest parts of the film sadly lay in the male cast (particularly Douglas Booth and a terrific Tom Sturridge as Lord Byron). Being that the writer and director are both females and the film tells of one of the great female trailblazing writers, this seems like a big misstep. Elle Fanning is good, but dull, and I'm not so sure that's her fault, as she's a magnetic actress elsewhere. Here, the film mismanages her talents and keeps us, and the audience, at an arm’s length away from both Fanning and Shelley. There's a very conventional tale being told in this film (just listen to the oddly placed soundtrack), but her life was anything but.


WRITTEN BY Emma Jensen DIRECTED BY Haifaa al-Mansour STARRING Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Joanne Froggatt, Tom Sturridge, Maisie Williams. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.



Nia DaCosta’s LITTLE WOODS is a bleak, powerful drama that gives a stellar role to Tessa Thompson. She plays a woman named Ollie, living in a fracking boomtown in North Dakota. Life has dealt her a pretty shitty set of cards and she has been forced into crime (smuggling and selling) to make money for her family and to save her home. Ollie has been working hard to get through her probation, which she received for dealing drugs and running medicine over the Canadian border to people who needed it and couldn’t afford the insured kind. But even as close as she is, the old way of life is tempting her to stray before she’s free and clear. Her broken down sister Deb (Lily James) is dead broke and pregnant, her Mother has just passed away and she’s going to lose her house. Unless she makes one last run across the border and can fix it all.


Thompson gives a searing and understated performance here, playing out every bit of drama like a high stakes’ thriller. And a thriller it is, because the consequences of every single action in this film are sky high. This is life and death stakes, but on a lower, broken class scale. The sound design and cinematography really capture the dreariness of the steps around her, making you feel adrift as you watch her float in and out of some particularly bad decisions. The only person she trusts is her probation officer (Lance Reddick) and although she trusts him, he shouldn’t return the favor because she definitely is lying to him. But he does trust her, or at least wants to, and wants to see her rise up. But with a sharp eye on the small-town drug trade, LITTLE WOODS really does ask, “Is change possible, or is the end just inevitable?” Under the smart direction of DaCosta, you’re unsure of any answer.



WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Nia Dacosta STARRING Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale, Lance Reddick. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.



Words, as they can, can be sharper than knives. That’s certainly the case in EGG, the new film written by Risa Mickenberg and directed by Marianna Palka. The premise revolves around two couples who are joining together in a loft style apartment to welcome a child into the world. Once they all arrive, verbal daggers and veiled judgments surround them, mostly in real time. You alternately howl with laughter or tense up, and the ensemble cast crackles with venom, reminding you of a modern Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.


Tina and Wayne (Alysia Reiner and Gbenga Akinnagbe) are a married couple in New York who at first seem like a loving couple that simply accepts Tina’s success and understands Wayne’s aimlessness. The live in a huge “artist loft” and have invited Tina’s lifelong friend Karen (Christina Hendricks) and her husband Don (David Alan Basche). Karen is eight months pregnant and very excited for motherhood. Tina is very excited to tell her everything that’s wrong with having a baby. All four of them could not be any different. And…. they’re off.


One of the great that works in EGG is how the razor-sharp zingers don’t just come from the tongue of Tina, they come right back at her from Karen. No one here is a victim and everyone has their say. As they go back and forth, you wonder if this would play even better as an intimate Off-Broadway play, as much of the staging feels “theatre-esque.” Most of the dynamics of the characters work, and Alysia Reiner and Christina Hendricks are especially great. Gbenga Akinnagbe has some solid moments as well, but sadly you hate David Alan Basche immediately and you don’t stop. He’s the only character that felt like so much of a shit that you don’t understand why his wife would be married to him. He’s awful, and I suppose it’s a credit to Basche that he plays it right up. Anna Camp has a bit of a thankless role in a part that isn’t fully needed but nonetheless works. With firecracker dialogue by Mickenberg and assured directing by Palka, EGG grabs your throat and doesn’t let go.

WRITTEN BY Risa Mickenberg DIRECTED BY Marianna Palka STARRING Christina Hendricks, Anna Camp, Alysia Reiner, David Alan Basche, Gbenga Akinnagbe. Playing as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.