Freedom of Thought


Director: Frances O’Connor

Cast: Emma Mackey, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Gemma Jones, Fionn Whitehead, Adrian Dunbar, Alexandra Dowling, Amelia Gething, Harry Anton, Elijah Wolf

Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Mansfield Park actress Frances O’Connor makes her directorial debut with the new period drama Emily based on the brief but vivid life of British novelist Emily Bronte who penned the classic novel Wuthering Heights.

Anglo-French actress Emma Mackey takes on the title role capping off a succession of period films in 2022 from Death on the Nile to Eiffel and fortunately Mackey is brilliant as the headstrong Emily Bronte.

Set in the decade before the publication of Wuthering Heights in 1847, Emily focuses on the inspiration behind such an astounding novel and her complex relationship with equally famous sister Charlotte Bronte played by Alexandra  Dowling. Between the sibling relationships, Emily has to contend with a passionate love affair with the dashing curate Weightman played by rising British star Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Lost Daughter).

While unable to escape the influence of her father played by Adrian Dunbar, Emily gets entangled in a bad sibling relationship with her undesirable brother Branwell Bronte, a regular at the local pub and a frequent consumer of opium. Branwell, superbly played by Dunkirk star Fionn Whitehead influences Emily into a range of undesirable activities mostly radical from voyeurism to drug taking, while chanting the mantra Freedom of Thought.

Whilst the sensible Charlotte Bronte has no time for her brother’s antics, Emily is entirely susceptible until eventually their father Patrick Bronte separates the siblings.

Emily discovers how complicated love can be, especially with a devoted man of God. The doomed love affair between Emily and Weightman is expertly captured in the seduction scene on a Yorkshire moor beautifully played by Emma Mackey and Oliver Jackson-Cohen as both actors struggle to untangle themselves from their restrictive Victorian clothing, a cinematic metaphor for the pervading morality which frowned upon acted out on one’s sexual desires.

Actress turned director Frances O’Connor does a relatively good job of directing Emily, keeping it extremely historically accurate while balancing the focus of the friction filled relationship between the two gifted Bronte sisters, both of whom would make a massive contribution to English Literature with the publication of their novels Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. However, the director could have got some editing tips as Emily does linger too long and occasionally loses focus.

Emily gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is saved by a superb cast that does justice to the legacy of the Bronte sisters. This film is recommended for those that enjoy a literary period film set in Victorian England.

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