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Initially there are enough elements in Emily that deviate from your average biopic but as the film progresses the makers find the trope of the tortured artist too hard to resist.

What inspired Emily Brontë to write her much-lauded gothic romance Wuthering Heights? That question - asked literally by her sister Charlotte in the opening minutes - is at the heart of biopic Emily, even if the picture proves to be at its strongest when it sidesteps easy answers.

In the picture's first half Frances O'Conner makes a strong writing and directing debut by mostly focussing on character over plot. This leads to a series of compelling scenes, none more so than an improvised séance with a death mask, which is scary, insightful and intriguingly ambiguous in all the right ways.

The excellent cast also is a major asset: Emily is filled with fine actors across the board and with Emma Mackey as its radiant centre. The young actress, who already impressed in TV series Sex Education, expertly handles all the nuances of Emily Brontë's character and delivers a performance on par with the best portrayals of female writers on the big screen.

It's not quite enough though to overcome a screenplay that ticks off all the well-worn, relevant clichés of the lovelorn, tortured artist in its second half, as the riveting non-establishment vibe of the picture's beginning makes way for a predictable costume drama denouement.

So while Emily might end on an uninspired note, the road towards the film's conclusion has enough pleasant surprises in store to keep you effortlessly entertained.

release: 2022

director: Frances O'Conner

starring: Emma Mackey, Fionn Whitehead, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Alexandra Dowling


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