Whatever their souls are made from, Emma and Emily are the same here.

Emily Brontë died too young at the age of 30, but was best known for her only novel “Wuthering Lights.” I’ve never heard of this young writer, but seeing Emma Mackay (“Death on the Nile,” “Eiffel”) portray her really shows us her youthful and poignant nature. We see her in this role as a poet, an actress who can pose as her deceased mother in a mask game, and a lover, who falls for her French teacher and local curate William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). The performances are real, but their romance was not. In real life, she was never a romantic, and they never fell in love. But this film likes to think they did.

It’s part-fictional and part-truthful in its story, written and directed by actress Frances O’Connor in her directorial debut. It’s refreshing that when an actor takes on this new position, he/she would usually know what they’re doing. O’Connor is no different, because she paints this drama with as much humanity as she can provide. Parts regarding certain punishment can be a little overwhelming for me, but not as much as what was presented in James Gray’s “Armageddon Time.” At least, these characters in “Emily” don’t say: “Stop crying.” I hate that.

Not only does Weightman become a key to the film’s story (remember: this is part fiction), but some of her family members try to bring out her best and worst qualities. At least one of them thinks they’re her best qualities, and the other thinks the opposite.

Her older sister Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling) calls her an embarrassment. That everyone in the village refers to her as “The Strange One.” She doesn’t have as much screen time as Emily does, but she does ask her what inspired her novel and her acting is very good. That’s what the movie opens and closes with.

Her brother (Fionn Whitehead) has a tattoo that says “Freedom in Thought,” which you can only shout, not say. Colossal difference. He actually inspires her to get it written on her arm. While he’s given the opportunity at the Royal Academy of Arts, there are times when people think he’s a bad influence on Emily. In fact, there’s a scene when his father Patrick (Adrian Dunbar) has to punish him for some foolish acts. And I’m glad he doesn’t do it violently.

Her relationship with Weightman starts off with arguments, middles with passion and sex, and ends with sadness and tragedy. Jackson-Cohen delivers in the role with how he looks and how he uses his words, and how he works well with Mackay.

I apologize for never knowing about Emily Brontë, but I still appreciate this movie for introducing me to her. I know it sounds wrong that I’ve learned about an author and poet through movie, but maybe it doesn’t have to sound wrong. And now that I look at it, it’s a shame she died so young without experiencing the concept of true love. But at least, she didn’t die as a nobody. She died as a writer.

You’ve seen her act in “Mansfield Park,” “Bedazzled,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” and “The Conjuring 2,” among others.” And now, you get to acknowledge that O’Connor is also entertaining behind the camera. And also guides Mckay in the ways that maybe she and Bronte share the same souls. As stated in “Wuthering Lights,” “Time brought resignation, and a melancholy sweeter than common joy.” That pretty much sums up the film.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Opens This Friday in NY and LA

Expands Nationwide Next Week

Categories: Biography, Drama, Romance

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