New Film Offers a Glimpse into the Imaginary Life of Emily Brontë

In EMILIAactor turned writer/director Frances O’Connor attempts to offer insight into the life of the Brontë family. Loosely biographical, it focuses specifically on the imaginary life of one of the world’s most famous yet mysterious authors.

movie stars Emma Mackey like Emily, who is portrayed as rebellious and misfit. The young actress relished the chance to tackle such a beloved character: “The Brontë family is shrouded in mystery. They’re kind of untouchable, especially Emily. She’s this mysterious figure, and I love that we flesh her out and give her character and personality and voice and make her a living, breathing woman, as opposed to this figure in the story.

EMILIA begins with a newcomer, Rev. William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), from the isolated village of Haworth. His arrival not only disrupts the proceedings, but causes emotional ripples that grow stronger as the story unfolds.

The Brontë girls are at first quite curious about William, but quickly become dismissive. However, things start to change when William is tasked with giving Emily – who grew up wild, free, and fiercely independent – French lessons, resulting in an intense and all-consuming affair.

Besides this forbidden and finally condemned love, which inspired the writing of The Wuthering Heightsthe film explores the various relationships that have shaped Emily’s life, in particular her raw and passionate sisterhood with Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling) and Anne (Amelie Gething), and his care for his maverick brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead), whom she idolizes. The film also features Adrian Dunbar and Gemma Jones.

More generally, EMILIA is a coming of age story – it’s about a woman finding herself and her authentic voice and power in the world.

“Emily has a lot to do” explains Mackey. “We see her start out as this timid, shy, very observant girl. She seeks her father’s approval and isn’t quite sure what her place is in the family and the world yet, but she’s imaginative and curious and wants to tell all those stories. Over the course of the film, we see her evolve and develop relationships with her brother and William. Her relationships with her sisters evolve and change too, as well as her relationship with herself, her imagination and her confidence. We see this evolution.

The film is O’Connor’s directorial debut, from his own original screenplay. “There were certain things in Emily’s life that I identified with,” she says. “Some things that I think are thematically part of ‘Wuthering Heights’ and his life that I also identify with, and I think a lot of women would identify with, so the idea came from there.” By writing the screenplay EMILIAO’Connor blended the historical accuracy of the Bronte’s lives with Emily’s fantasy world. “I could have told a story that was a straightforward biography, but I felt like it was done. I was more interested in finding a way to celebrate who Emily is, that ties into ‘Wuthering Heights’ and which is more strongly narrative in a way that feels a bit like a fairy tale.

EMILIA is beautifully acted, lovingly shot and intensely imagined. It takes audiences on a journey that might initially seem familiar to fans of the Brontës, but also offers a new insight into the life of one of literature’s most mysterious authors, delving deep into the psyches of Emily and her loved ones as she navigates who she truly is and what she must become.

The film is a must-see for Brontë fans, The Wuthering Heights enthusiasts, literature students and book lovers.

EMILIA is distributed locally by Filmfinity Pty (Ltd.) and will be released in South African theaters on November 11, 2022.

About Herbert L. Leonard

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