Does the world need another screen adaptation of Emily Brontë classic 1846 novel, Wuthering Heights? Arguably no. But writer-director Andrea Arnold's effort is no mere run-of-the-mill adaptation. It's a bold, unique, gorgeously made film that manages to be at once thoroughly contemporary and elegantly throwback. It's a breath of fresh, moist English air in a narrative that typically gets the staid, overly corseted Merchant Ivory treatment.
Arnold (Fish Tank, Red Road) applies her unique aesthetic vision to the source material, even while she remains relatively faithful to book's plot. The story, a bleak Gothic romance set against the windswept, turbulent moors of North Yorkshire, England, concerns the star-crossed romance between Heathcliff and Catherine ("Cathy"). The film opens when Heathcliff—a mysterious boy whose backstory is never told—is taken in by Mr. Earnshaw, a Yorkshire farmer and father to a short-tempered son (Hindley) and a free-spirited daughter (Cathy). Soon Heathcliff and Cathy forge an intimate friendship that becomes something more as they grow up together, playing in the muddy, craggy, dramatic landscapes of the moors. Things get complicated for Heathcliff and Cathy as the expectations of class and culture intrude on the dreamscape of innocent young love. As they grow into adulthood they experience the painful ramifications of the dark side (jealousy, passion, bitterness) of their ill-fated love.
Though Arnold's film (in limited theaters) doesn't encompass the full narrative timeline of the book, it does cover much of the central drama surrounding Heathcliff and Cathy, without ever feeling rushed, thin or unsatisfying. English teachers and literary purists may object to the film's unorthodox ...1