Film Reviews

John Maguire: A sympathetic glimpse into the short and secretive life of Emily Brontë

Director Frances O’Connor blurs fact and fiction to dramatic effect in this modern and sensitively drawn take on the physical and mental health challenges faced by the Victorian writer

Emma Mackey as Emily Brontë in Emily, director Frances O’Connor’s sensitive film about the renowned Victorian writer

Actor turned writer and director Frances O’Connor’s sensitive portrait of author Emily Brontë captures the Victorian era with a modern sensibility. Not in the post-Bridgerton sense, where contemporary manners and ear-catching slang are peppered throughout, or modern in the sense of people of colour holding positions of power and influence in a fantasy Britain stripped of its colonial history, but modern in its sympathetic investigation of a woman’s inner life.

Neatly avoiding period dramas’ most egregious crinoline clichés, Emily is O’Connor’s attempt to frame the emotional power of Brontë’s prose and her famous oddness through the prism of what we now know about depression, trauma, social isolation and other mental health issues for which the language did not exist to describe 150 years ago.