EMILY BY TOTAL FILM
10th Dec, 2021
Taking the Brontë biopic to new (Wuthering) Heights.
THE AUTHOR BIOPIC GETS A META REINVENTION.
DIRECTOR FRANCES O’CONNOR STARRING EMMA MACKEY, ALEXANDRA DOWLING, FIONN WHITEHEAD, AMELIA GETHING
It’s not a biopic,” declares Frances O’Connor of her directorial debut, Emily. “It’s definitely not a biopic.” On the surface, a film about Emily Brontë, the English novelist and poet, would seem like period bio territory. But actress-turned director O’Connor had other ideas, melding biographical detail with moments from the seminal Wuthering Heights, the only novel she wrote before she died in 1848 aged 30.
“Really, it’s posing the question: how do you be true to yourself?” says O’Connor, who first began tinkering with the script 10 years ago in between acting jobs. Playing Emily is Sex Education star Emma Mackey. “I really feel like her performance is extraordinary,” adds O’Connor. “She just stepped up and delivered and she has so much intelligence, and a beautiful, raw beauty to her. But she’s very unconscious of it.”
Around her, O’Connor cast Dunkirk’s Fionn Whitehead as Emily’s brother Branwell, while sisters Charlotte and Anne are played by Alexandra Dowling and Amelia Gething, respectively. O’Connor also drew on her experience in corset movies, having starred in Mansfield Park and Madame Bovary in the past. “[I wanted to] really walk away from all the tropes of period drama,” she says. “I never do a crane shot. I think they’re synonymous with period films!”
Overall, O’Connor is hoping to draw in younger audiences and introduce them to Brontë. “The film’s about being authentic to who you are, no matter what. And I think that is something that young women will relate to. I think there’s so much pressure to be something now in public, on social media. And so really the film is for them in a lot of ways.” In O’Connor’s eyes, there’s much to admire about the rebellious, free-spirited Brontë. “I think there are a lot of elements that make her a great female hero for the modern age.”