Film reviews: Emily | The lost king | anything that breathes

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In her bid to create a creation myth for Wuthering Heights, writer and director Frances O’Connor isn’t letting historical pedantry get in the way of a good story, writes Alistair Harkness

Emily

All That Breathes (12A)****

It’s a tricky thing to capture writing on screen. The daunting task required to turn something fleeting into a tangible work of art doesn’t exactly lend itself to scintillating cinema. In Emilythe new film about Emily Brontë, actress-turned-writer/director Frances O’Connor attempts to circumvent this problem by reverse-engineering a psychological portrait of the author from the pages of Wuthering Heights to provide an origins story/creation myth for the novel itself.

Loosely biographical in its fidelity to the real-life Brontë family, the film guesses a source for the raging passions that run through its only novel in a thwarted clandestine affair between Emily (played by Emma Mackay) and William Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) , the handsome new vicar of his father. At first, Emily is skeptical of Weightman’s Byronic charms, but gradually she succumbs, bonding over French lessons, wild walks in the moors and vigorous sex in hiding. But when things inevitably take a turn for the worse, the film suggests the emotional detritus runs through the Catherine and Heathcliff story that has wowed Wuthering Heights readers since it was first published in 1847, before Emily’s death the following year. .

Whether the affair is unlikely to have happened is beside the point. O’Connor is trying to evoke something about the power of imagination in general and Bronte’s imagination in particular. She doesn’t let historical pedantry get in the way of the story, in other words, especially the story of a woman using writing to process the frustrations and traumas of living in a world that doesn’t understand her.

Around the edges, we get a story of sibling rivalry as the prim and proper Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling), who has designs on Weightman herself, begs her to reveal the inspiration for her “ugly” novel, which according to the film, also inspired her to write Jane Eyre, even though Jane Eyre was published the same year and was adopted long before Wuthering Heights really found success.

The lost king

Again, such blatant disregard for historical accuracy need not be a barrier to the success of a film trying to examine the blurred lines between life and art. Emily may not be as daring or as interesting as some of the more radical films exploring this theme, such as Josephine Decker’s pleasantly odd 2020 film Shirley, about horror writer Shirley Jackson, or the film shape-shifting Bob Dylan, I’m Not There. Nor is his interrogation of the Wuthering Heights mythos shrewdly reimagined as the brutally realistic adaptation of Andrea Arnold’s 2011 novel. But O’Connor injects a few expressionist flourishes that help us understand how the restrictive outdoor life of ‘Emily ignited her vast interior. one and while this is a speculative portrait, unlike the recent Blonde, O’Connor at least has some respect for his subject. Indeed, the creative license she’s taking with Charlotte is more like an attempt to imagine how Emily might have been remembered had she lived long enough to oversee her own legacy.

About the Creative License, The lost king aims to right a wrong that some amateur history buffs believe Shakespeare perpetrated against Richard III. Reuniting Philomena director Stephen Frears with co-writer/star Steve Coogan, it’s a seriocomic dramatization of the story inspired by real events by Philippa Langley, the Edinburgh-based office worker whose quest to uncover the remains of Richard III led to their discovery in a Leicester car park in 2012. Played by Sally Hawkins, Langley feels an affinity with the much-maligned monarch because of his own self, which lowered his self-esteem after being passed over for a promotion and forced to juggle daycare with her ex-husband (Coogan).

Frustratingly, however, Frears is so blunt in his effort to make this a populist underdog story in which she is sidelined in his own business that he stacks the decks in Philippa’s favor by turning virtually every academic pundit whom she meets in a whiny, treacherous and elitist mustache. – whirlpool. But Hawkins’ finely tuned performance doesn’t require such pantomime villainy to put us on Philippa’s side. She’s gorgeous, which makes Frears and co’s determination to dumb down the film around her all the more irritating.

Centered on two brothers who run a makeshift bird hospital in Delhi, Shaunak Sen’s documentary anything that breathes offers an intriguing and thoughtful look at the ideological and environmental issues tearing the city apart. Ever since they were teenagers, Mohammad and Nadeem have been saving the black kites that hover in the polluted skies above their hometown – a largely thankless task, but one that illuminates the problems Delhi faces as a whole: predatory birds have adapted to their harsh conditions, feeding on city trash like airborne rats, but the smog and heat are also causing them to fall from the sky with increasing regularity, yet another sign of damage irreparable harm to the environment.

anything that breathes

Added to this are the anti-Muslim riots that engulf Delhi in 2020, putting Mohammad, Nadeem and their Muslim families on edge as they finally secure funding to create a purpose-built facility while the city burns around them. Beautifully shot, the film captures the birds’ indifference to their would-be saviors, perhaps as a way to magnify the indifference of the population as a whole to the creatures they share their city with.

Emily and All That Breathes are on general release from October 14; The Lost King is currently in theaters.

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