By Abe Friedtanzer
Fans of Netflix’s beloved series Sex education will surely be delighted to learn that star Emma Mackey plays the famous poet and author of “Wuthering Heights” Emily Brontë, who died at the age of thirty after publishing an incredible work. Emily also marks the directorial debut of a terrific actress who does not appear in the film, Frances O’Connor (AI, Mansfield Park). She has her own fantasy TV series that is worth watching, The end, which airs on Showtime in the United States. It turns out that O’Connor has been a lifelong Brontë enthusiast, and her passion for the subject is reflected in this finished product…
It’s hard to create a biopic centered around a single Brontë sister when Charlotte, who would go on to write “Jane Eyre,” among other classics, is there, but this film addresses that beginning. Emily and Charlotte are close, but they see the world differently, and it’s Charlotte’s departure that allows Emily to blossom and focus on her writing. She clings instead to her rebellious brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead), frequently joining him at night to peer through other people’s windows; that was considered criminal activity at that time. But what really drives her is the relationship she forms with her deeply religious French tutor, Mr. Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), which begins as controversial and quickly becomes extremely passionate.
At the center of this story is Mackey’s fully exploited performance. His face is so actor. His reactions to moralizing sermons and other stuffy sentiments are not necessarily meant to be seen by his peers, but exist for the enjoyment of the public. She holds back little, and when she does, it’s wonderful to see the wheels still turning as she struggles. not reacting physically to something that she finds obnoxious or ridiculous. His chemistry with Jackson-Cohen is also electric, buried under many layers of thick clothing but even more powerful due to his forbidden nature.
As a filmmaker, O’Connor shows an enthusiasm for detail and an emphasis on character, channeling his admiration for Brontë and his signature work through a love letter to a misunderstood and underappreciated woman at his era. Mackey and the other cast members have excellent comedic timing, but, despite its frequent comedic moments, this is no comedy. Instead, it’s a snapshot of a spark that fueled a woman born in a time that wasn’t ready to accept her as she was and could have gone on to do even more remarkable things. if his life had not been cut short by illness. There’s a lot going on in the 130-minute runtime, a fitting tribute to an author who, so many years after his death, has finally earned the fame he should have been given in his lifetime. B+
Emily is screened in the Platform category at TIFF and will be published next year by Bleecker Street.