Wuthering Heights

ALBERTO PERUCCHINI finds the new Brontë adaptation more meh than moving.

andrea arnold british cinema emily bronte Film film review fish tank james howson kaya scodelario red road wuthering heights

Directed by Andrea Arnold

[rating: 3.5/5]

Yet another Wuthering Heights. Considering the endless string of adaptations which the novel has gone through, I was expecting to be in for a treat reserved to only the most hardcore of English students.

And even they, if my pre-showing survey was accurate, had their doubts. But this is a thoroughly enjoyable, arty (yet not fartsy) re-take on Brontë’s literary baby. Admittedly, it is a new sensual and sensuous example of British cinema.

If you’ve been living under a rock since the 1840s, know that the plot centres on a stray kid, named Heathcliff (James Howson), being taken in by a poor family in the moors of Yorkshire. He develops feelings for the family’s small daughter Catherine, played by Kaya Scodelario (OMG, it’s Effy!), who reciprocates.

Their childhood relationship, never consummated, ends when Catherine becomes engaged to a local wealthy brat — Heathcliff flees, heartbroken. Tragedy ensues when he comes back an accomplished and wealthy man to woo and taunt a married Catherine.

Brontë is back… in black.

I could have commented on the fact that Heathcliff is a black man this time ’round… But the rest of the press won’t have missed any opportunity to stuff that fact down your throat by now, so I will mercifully abstain. The only thing you should know is that it’s essentially irrelevant to the experience, unless you’re into race studies and postmodern literary theory.

Sadly I am, but that’s my problem. What is undeniable is that the acting is very appealing, Heathcliff and Catherine being played with impeccable, passionate and self-destructive Victorian restraint.

The photography of the moors is also magnificent in its broodiness (it won the award at Venice); the sound is ethereal, the music non-existent — have a look at the understated trailer below and you’ll have a good idea of the ‘feel’ of the whole affair. Ironically, all this is perhaps Wuthering Heights’ real weakness. It has the flair and the taste, but lacks enough substance and solidity to be fixed into memory. Shame: this is a good film which ends with a meh.