Wuthering Heights (15)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byMatthew Turner11/11/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 128 mins

With hand-held camerawork and minimal dialogue, this is a strikingly bold and impressively naturalistic adaptation of Bronte's novel, heightened by terrific performances from its two young leads, though the second half of the film can't quite live up to the first.

What's it all about?
Directed by Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank), Wuthering Heights is adapted from the classic novel by Emily Bronte and stars Solomon Glave as a young orphan who's adopted by kindly farmer Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) and brought home to live with his family on their isolated farm on the Yorkshire Moors. Christened Heathcliff, the young boy falls head over heels for Earnshaw's earthy daughter Catherine (Shannon Beer) and the pair forge a strong bond, but her resentful brother Hindley (Lee Shaw) reacts violently to their growing relationship and subjects Heathcliff to continual physical abuse.

When Earnshaw dies, Hindley takes over the farm and Cathy agrees to marry their rich neighbour Linton (James Northcote), causing a broken-hearted Heathcliff to run away. Years later, a now educated Heathcliff (played by James Howson) returns to declare his love for Cathy (Kaya Scodelario) and take revenge on Hindley.

The Good
Newcomers Shannon Beer and Solomon Glave are both terrific as Cathy and Heathcliff, generating strong, palpable chemistry with minimal dialogue; the sequence where they play-fight in the mud is beautifully performed and captures all the longing and emotion of their relationship in a single scene. Unfortunately however, Beer and Glave are so good that their loss in the second half is extremely jarring and both Howson and Scodelario come off as poor replacements, despite delivering performances that would have been perfectly adequate if they'd played the parts from the start.

Arnold's powerfully naturalistic approach is a bold directorial decision that some may find frustrating but it works perfectly in the first half, thanks to Robbie Ryan's extraordinary camerawork and some stunning sound design that makes it feel like you're out there on the moors with them. Similarly, the minimal dialogue heightens the earthy physicality of the world around Heathcliff and Arnold strongly enforces his point of view throughout (in fact, if anything, she rather overdoes the use of the through-the-keyhole shot).

The Bad
The main problem is that the techniques of the first half aren't nearly as effective in the second half, which attempts to be more conventional (a single scene contains more dialogue than the entire previous hour) while still clinging to the same signature camerawork. The result of this, coupled with the jarring cast change, is that the central relationship isn't as compelling as it was in the first half of the film so the finale fails to satisfy on an emotional level.

Worth seeing?
Despite a weaker second half, Wuthering Heights is a stunningly directed and beautifully shot romantic drama with terrific performances from Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer. Recommended.

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Content updated: 23/07/2012 22:36

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