We take a close look at what critics have had to say about Frances O’Connor’s Emily Bronte biopic.
The Guardian: **** ” It’s beautifully acted, lovingly shot, fervently and speculatively imagined, although Mackey’s portrayal, excellent as it is, may be smoother around the edges and less windblown than the real thing.”
Empire: ** “There’s nothing wrong with speculative fiction, of course, with works of British directors including Ken Russell and Derek Jarman proving this. But the issue with Emily is that it never does anything interesting with the imagined life it creates for the second-youngest Brontë, choosing merely to recast a rough version of Wuthering Heights with Emily (Emma Mackey) herself in the role of Cathy Earnshaw, and a visiting preacher, William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), as her Heathcliff. A bold experiment, perhaps, but it leaves us with a film that does not allow Brontë the respect to create her own fiction.”
The Upcoming: **** “Emily imagines the writer’s inner life with great compassion and does full justice to the author’s greatness without idolising her. Mackey is cast perfectly for the titular role, speaking with her eyes and expressing so much through her silences. This is a fantastic feature that may take liberties when it comes to factuality, but it more than makes up for that with its gripping dramatic tone and a real regard for its central character.”
New Statesman: “If audiences really were content with the pen-to-paper explanation, then the movie would have no reason to exist. Like Becoming Jane (Austen) and Miss Potter (Beatrix) before it, Emily is in the business of joining the dots between life and literature, reducing artistic inspiration to book-group talking points and dreamy what-ifs. But this debut feature from the actor-turned-director Frances O’Connor still contains striking material amid the poppycock, and even ’fesses up to its own futility.”
Radio Times: *** “Having acted in the past in corset dramas, including 1999’s Jane Austen adaptation Mansfield Park, O’Connor clearly has a vision and she doggedly sticks to it. Arguably, Emily is a little too dour, a little too melodramatic, and the pacing sometimes drags. Mackey is also rather constrained by her role, which feels a little one-note: the glowering middle sister, who writes a “base” book “full of selfish people”, as Charlotte dubs it.”
Variety: “O’Connor’s well-modulated debut doesn’t pretend to be a faithful recreation of the facts of the Brontës’ lives. Instead it succeeds on a much trickier level, giving us a psychologically vivid Emily who did not write “Wuthering Heights” because a real-life romance unlocked her passionate nature, but whom we’d love to imagine having had such a grand affair, because she was always the woman with “Wuthering Heights” inside her.”
Emily is due for release in UK cinemas on the 14th October.