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EMILY (2023)

Release Date: 02/17/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Biography/Drama/Romance

Studio: Bleecker Street

"EMILY imagines the transformative, exhilarating, and uplifting journey to womanhood of a rebel and a misfit, one of the world's most famous, enigmatic, and provocative writers, who died too soon at the age of 30." 


Writer and director Frances O’Connor delves into the lives of the Brontë family with her directorial debut, Emily. True to the title, the movie focuses mainly on the life of Emily Brontë. Rather than showing the writing of "Wuthering Heights" (Emily’s most famous novel), O’Connor imagines bits of Emily’s life that might have influenced her writing of it. 


Emily (Emma Mackey) prefers being at home with her family. She is especially close to her brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead) who is mischievous and encourages her to be herself. Her sister Anne (Amelia Gething) embraces Emily’s oddities and they often discuss imaginary worlds and stories together. Her relationship with her other sister Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling) is more strained. Charlotte is often embarrassed by Emily and despairs when townspeople call her “The Strange One.” 


Admittedly, Emily is strange. When she is sent away to school, she locks herself in a closet and has to be sent home. She doesn’t like to leave her house and feels comfortable only around family. What nowadays would be seen as extreme anxiety and perhaps even agoraphobia, is only labeled as abnormal and creates difficulties for Emily and her family. To help Emily with her studies, her father hires William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a curate of their church, as a French tutor. The two are at odds in the beginning but slowly a love story unfolds. 


The movie is held together by a worthy performance from Emma Mackey. She slips into the role of Emily with ease and conveys Emily’s inner demons without having to bother with words. Her chemistry with both Whitehead and Jackson-Cohen is magnificent and it’s easy to believe her love for both of them. O’Connor selects some interesting filming styles and at times it feels like a horror movie with the way the camera moves and the intense and moody score. Using a Gothic horror aesthetic with Emily Brontë works incredibly well and helps to convey her strangeness and personal struggles on screen. It would have been more impactful if O’Connor would have fully committed to this style for the entire two hour and ten minute runtime, because when it is utilized it works well. 


O’Connor takes much creative liberty with this story and a quick fact check quickly disproves much of the plot. There will be history purists who scoff at this version of the Brontë’s, but taking detours in the lives of famous individuals is nothing new. And if this entertaining movie leads to more people reading "Wuthering Heights," then we’d call it a success.

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