Forget everything you remember of Emily Brontë’s novel—or for that matter, the cozy act of thumbing through a book (or tablet) at all. Andrea Arnold, a filmmaker who’s sensitive to temperature and turf, grabs you first with the weather. Ice-cold wind whips your bones in a twilight of dank, swaying weeds. This is Yorkshire, and you feel the northernness of it: the fierce chill of being alive and outside. Hard-headed beetles scrabble along the grass; birds caw desperately. There’s no one around for miles. Out of this beautifully rendered mood comes Brontë’s classic tale of long-thwarted romance, and if Arnold does nothing else, she clarifies the nature of that lasting love, one that emerges out of an ache but also a need to be warm, to gather around a glow.
In those golden, fire-lit interiors, Wuthering Heights loses a bit of its urgency, even during an act of sexualized blood-licking that should be a lot hotter. Still, Arnold’s vibrant, Malickian adaptation has another bold stroke worth mentioning: Heathcliff, a Gypsy in the original text, is now an Afro-Caribbean former slave, initially a bruised teen (Glave) and then an unusual, self-made man (Howson). His affair with Catherine (the vulnerable Beer) becomes supercharged with danger. Sticklers might call the racial component a distraction, but you have to salute this director’s vision, which shakes up the story with determination. This weird, yearning movie could become beloved to many, just as the novel has been.
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