2022 drama film movie review

Emily (2022) Review

Emily imagines the life of Emily Bronte and is out in cinemas this Friday - check out our review!

by Ian Morton

Emily is a beguiling and moving drama that steps away from the pages of literary classic, Wuthering Heights, to tell the story of Emily Brontë, and the romanticised events that inspired the novel.

I say romanticised as writer/director Frances O’Connor has been very forthcoming that this isn’t your traditional biopic, telling The Guardian as part of the press tour ‘This is me taking her and putting her in the centre of her own story.’, while acknowledging the factual truth behind the infamous recluse is more than a little muddied. It’s in this muddiness of events though that gives O’Connor the very space she needs to explore and pay homage to someone that has clearly inspired her work greatly and the results are quite impressive.

Having lost her mother at a young age and suffering through a strained relationship with her father, Emily (Emma Mackey) is lost and a little different. Labelled as ‘The Strange One’ of her siblings, she struggles to find her place. Living life through stories, her world is turned upside down when a young curate comes to town (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and the two find themselves oddly drawn to one another at the behest of those around them.

Emily (2022)

For her first time behind the camera, Frances O’Conner has created something extraordinarily beautiful here. From start to finish, there is a realness to events that shatters stereotypical period dramas to tell a much more modern story. The story is ultimately about the outsider – a role that many will find relatable – and is first and foremost about our protagonist anxiously finding her place in the world and the events that may or may not have inspired the words of her timeless novel. 

One of the more expertly crafted elements of the film is how it develops a sense of place. From the very beginning to its end, it’s evident that it was Emily’s surroundings that shaped her, and O’Connor uses this as a driving force for many of the decisions she makes in the director’s chair. Where are we? What is happening outside? Is it raining? All of these are considered, and it makes the film richer, giving each moment texture and making things more tangible as a result.

The same can be said for the leading cast. Emma Mackey’s sensitive portrayal of the writer is as bold as it is complex, giving layers to a character that could quite easily have fallen into excess. Emily as a result is a compelling protagonist, fraught with insecurity and anxiety yet brought to life with vigour in the hands of Mackey. It’s altogether a brilliant contrast to the other players of the film, Oliver Jackson-Cohen’s particularly broody curate, William Weightman and Fionn Whiteheads enabler brother, Branwell Brontë, are the perfect complement to Mackey’s starring role. 

The great conceit of Emily is the ever-present enigma as to what inspired Brontë to write Wuthering Heights. Frances O’Connor in her own way has answered this question, bringing as much drama to the life of the reclusive writer as Brontë crafted for her own characters. For a life full of mystery, it feels only fitting that one would have a story as rich in narrative as the one she gave to the world 175 years ago!

Emily is out in cinemas Friday 14th October.

2 comments on “Emily (2022) Review

  1. All Things Movies - Morton

    Ah, cursed once again by autocorrect! Thanks for the heads up!


  2. Angela Havel

    Um, Emily’s brother was Branwell Bronte, not Brendan!


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