Heads Up: Wuthering Heights

What would Emily Brontë say? A Cathy for the 'Skins' generation
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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

The latest big-screen adaptation of Emily Brontë's classic novel (the first half, at least. Like most film versions, it ends with Cathy's death).

Elevator Pitch

Brontë gets gritty.

Prime Movers

Director Andrea Arnold, whose film Fish Tank was widely lauded, is behind the (often handheld) camera. Olivia Hetreed (Girl with a Pearl Earring) wrote the pared-down, yet expletive-heavy, script. Yep, you can even expect to hear Heathcliff uttering the C-word.

The Stars

Kaya Scodelario, best known as Effy from Skins, plays the adult Cathy to newcomer James Howson's Heathcliff. Two unknowns also play their younger versions: Arnold has an eye for raw talent, and has certainly found it in the teenaged Shannon Beer and Solomon Glave.

The Early Buzz

At its premiere in Venice, Arnold's unsentimental approach was respected, if not always enjoyed. Anita Singh, in The Daily Telegraph, called it "a raw and affecting adaptation that will bring a new audience to the Brontë story...This is a brutal world far removed from cosy period drama." Xan Brooks, in The Guardian, deemed it "a beautiful rough beast of a movie, a costume drama like no other. This might not be warm, or even approachable, but it is never less than bullishly impressive" while Kaleem Aftab, in The Independent, found it a "defiantly art-house adaptation of the Emily Brontë classic that is from the school of Robert Bresson rather than Merchant Ivory."

It's great that...

Arnold has managed to genuinely breathe new life into a much-adapted, almost cinematically codified story.

Insider Knowledge

It's the first film to cast a black man as Heathcliff. Arnold justified the decision by pointing out the novel's references to his dark colouring: he is described as a "dark-skinned gypsy in aspect" and "a little lascar".

It's a shame that...

Despite its grubby realism and lack of syrupy soundtrack, the movie bizarrely ends with a specially commissioned song from MOR folk band Mumford and Sons; The Hollywood Reporter deemed it Arnold's only real misstep.

Hit Potential

Lacks star power and won't exactly please the bonnets'n' bustles parade, but film buffs and art-house audiences will likely love it. Arnold's brutal take on the story may even win over new audiences normally resistant to literary adaptations or period dramas.

The Details

Wuthering Heights is released 11 November.

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