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A touching tribute to a mysterious and intriguing writer


Frances O Connor’s beautifully crafted take on Romanticism: Emily

Sensual and roughly historical film about the author of Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, by actor turned writer-director Frances O’Connor, evokes the Victorian age with a contemporary sensibility. Francis O’Connor’s performances in the films Mansfield Park, Bedazzled, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Timeline are what made her most well-known. It’s really hard to believe that her outcome as a director was flawless. If you are an avid reader of classics, you must be aware of Emile Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Just for your knowledge Emily Bronte was a well-known English poet and novelist best remembered for her solo book, Wuthering Heights, which is today regarded as a classic of English literature. Along with her sisters Charlotte and Anne, she also produced a volume of poetry titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, in which her own poems were hailed as works of artistic brilliance.

Emily focuses Emily Bronte’s dynamism, exhilarating and uplifting journey to womanhood, also throwing light on Emily as a rebel and a misfit. Charlotte, Emily Bronte's older sister, asks Emily, who is sick and on the verge of death, about her motivation to create Wuthering Heights. At some point in the past, Charlotte, who is almost out of school, makes a visit to her family. While Charlotte was at school, Emily tries to discuss with her the imaginary world she has been building, but Charlotte discourages her from engaging in such childish pursuits.

Emma Mackay who plays Emily, views Bronte’s psychological and emotional difficulties as a hindrance or some unlucky calamity on her brief life—the author passed away from tuberculosis at the age of thirty. Mackey’s Emily frequently conveys a sour or embarrassed demeanor in response to her surroundings. She frequently sneaks away to quiet places or just her own mind. She is the family’s ‘black sheep,’ castigated and mistreated by her widowed priest father (Adrian Dunbar). Furthermore, while highlighting the Bronte family's literary prowess and troubles with life and love, the film does not shy away from depicting the terrible reality of their existence. It provides a rare window into the unfettered imagination that helped to mold these exceptional authors (and sisters). One scene I will always remember is the mask-wearing séance scene. It served to deepen the characters’ mutual understanding while also being gothic, and creepy.

Bronte’s problems as a female author in a male-dominated society are also discussed at length, which I found interesting. Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays the role of Reverend William Weightman, a young man divided between his faith and his attraction to the enigmatic and free-spirited Emily. He does an excellent job of making the viewer care about him and at the same time be intrigued about his motivations. We may not be sure about Emily’s relationship with William Weightman who briefly resided in the family house or her sluggish use of opium.

Cinematographer Nanu Segal, production designer Steve Summersgill, and Art Director Jono Moles all contribute greatly to the film's outstanding visual language. Detailed descriptions of the moors and the turbulent Bronte sisters’ past provide a convincing feeling of immersion in that place. Alexander Dowling plays Charlotte, Amelia Gething plays Anne, Adrian Dunbar plays Patrick Bronte, and Gemma Jones plays Aunt Branwell, with Fionn Whitehead playing the Byron-like Branwell. All of the actors do a fantastic job of bringing these multifaceted and intriguing historical individuals to life, making for an exciting and thought-provoking viewing experience. Any fan of the Romantic period or a student studying the works of Emily Bronte would benefit much from watching Emily. What I still believe is lacking in the movie is that there are no flashbacks to her childhood, no gesturing at larger world events to contextualize her place in society.

Watching Emily is like reading Emily’s writing; it's a vivid portrayal of her thoughts that is just as swoon-worthy and eerie as Wuthering Heights. O'Connor intended to reflect the evocative quality of Emily Bronte's iconic work rather than simply making a movie about the author. What I truly loved about the movie was its handheld, subtly shaky camera that gives the impression that it was shot on the Yorkshire moors, where Emily and her characters lived. Don’t hold your breath for authenticity, however. It’s a touching tribute to a mysterious and intriguing writer. I would rate the movie 8 out of 10 based on the cinematography and the charming sketch of a Victorian lifestyle. Go for this one if you want a psychological insight into the psyche of a great writer.


Dr. Ramandeep Mahal is currently working as an Assistant Professor of English at Guru Nanak Khalsa College Yamunanagar. She received her Doctorate degree from Maharishi Markandeshwar Mullana Ambala in 2018. Her research interests include Anglo-American Literature, Indian Writing in English, African Literature. She is the author of more than twenty research papers.

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