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Stars: Emma Mackey, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Alexandra Dowling, Adrian Dunbar, Fionn Whitehead, Amelia Gething, Gemma Jones

Director: Frances O'Connor

The fascinating prospect of an Emily Brontë biography emerges in this version as something of a tastefully-treated bodice-ripper, largely shot very dingily, in keeping perhaps with the bleakness of its Yorkshire moor setting, although it does lend the production something of a TV feel.

So here Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and the rest of the three short-lived Brontë sisters' literary output scarcely gets a look in, as the film concentrates instead on the disintegration of their dissolute brother Branwell (Whitehead) under the influences of opium and alcohol, and on the (fictional) relationship between the rebellious, 'strange' Emily (Sex Education's Mackey) and the new curate, Weightman (Jackson-Cohen), as they draw closer together during French lessons, a relationship ultimately consummated in a straw-strewn cottage, as Emily does indeed have her bodice ripped off before sex. But perhaps hastily unlaced would be a more accurate description.

Everything, as literary historians will know, is destined to end in tragedy and premature death, to the dismay of the Brontë patriarch (Dunbar, trying but failing to shed the image of a TV detective).

Acting is otherwise pretty much OK, with Mackey fiercely intense as Emily and Dowling particularly good (visual emotions are subtly conveyed) as her pious and bossy sister Charlotte.

Mostly, though, the film, like the hapless curate, treads an uneasy path between reverence and suppressed desires. It also glosses over the fact that, although our heroine finally holds copies of 'Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë from her publishers, the book, like those of her sisters, was originally published under male-sounding pseudonyms. This was, perhaps understandably, a confusion too far for the filmmakers.

Direction by actress O'Connor is solid throughout, even if her screenplay is not without anachronisms. 'Give it some welly!' Branson exhorts Emily at one point. Ouch.

David Quinlan

UK/US 2022. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Colour by The Post Republic.
130 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 0.

Review date: 10 Oct 2022