Wuthering Heights

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
1 out of 5 stars
(30user reviews)
You call tell immediately that this ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a film by Andrea Arnold, the writer-director of ‘Red Road’ and ‘Fish Tank’. This might be the British filmmaker’s first period adaptation, but her trademarks are all there, from the woozy, handheld camerawork capturing dust in the sunshine and almost-square screen ratio to the use of natural light and the up-close-and-then-some relationship with a single character.

 In this austere, elemental version of Emily Brontë’s novel, that character is Heathcliff, played first by Solomon Glave and later by James Howson. Arnold’s Heathcliff is not the gypsy of the novel. Here, he’s portrayed as black, and the reluctant members of his new family in a farmhouse on a wind-battered Yorkshire moor react as you might expect to their father’s act of charity in adopting him, considering the time and place.

 Like most screen versions, Arnold’s film drops its curtain when Heathcliff’s almost-lover Cathy (Shannon Beer and then Kaya Scodelario), also his adopted sister, leaves the story, and so ignores the second half. But this spin on the book pays as much attention to weather and animals, plants and insects as it does to the tragedy of unfulfilled love as its core. Nature offers cameos from hawks, dogs, rabbits, sheep and beetles. For Arnold, landscape and wildlife are substitutes for needless dialogue and exposition.

The film’s interest in dirt and dust, blood and bogs, brings to mind the earthiness of Andrew Kötting’s Émile Zola adaptation, ‘This Filthy Earth’, although the intimate shots of nature recall Terrence Malick. There’s a touch of the Ken Loach of ‘Days of Hope’ or Bill Douglas of ‘Comrades’ in its unfussy, non-decorous approach to period – although, unlike them, Arnold prefers little talk.

This silence and the intimate cosying-up to Heathcliff becomes a slight problem in the film’s later stages. Here, older Heathcliff and Cathy are not as interesting as their younger selves – and nor are the actors playing them. Howson looks lost and Scodelario is a thin presence. The film’s later chapters feel too much like standard melodrama with the sound off – and by this stage, cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s exquisite imagery becomes a touch repetitive too.

But the best of the film – the first hour – is excellent. Arnold’s strongest work goes into exploring Heathcliff and Cathy’s tentative romance with tenderness and a visceral sense of where pain meets pleasure. Glave and Beer work well together. A scene of them fighting in the mud contains all the longing necessary to explain the distress of their later parting. Arnold is great at exploring Heathcliff’s isolation, showing us only what he sees as he lurks round corners or peers through doors.

The film’s lack of final tragedy is a difficulty. By the end, you feel as shut off from this world as Heathcliff, a stranger in his own story. It’s a smart approach – but not fully satisfying to share. Still, Arnold’s film looks astounding and there are clever choices in every scene.

By: Dave Calhoun


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday November 11 2011
Duration: 127 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Andrea Arnold
Cast: Kaya Scodelario
Nichola Burley
Oliver Milburn
James Howson
Steve Evets
Amy Wren
Paul Hilton
1 person listening

I found the film dreadfully slow but strangely compelling. Solomon Glave was particularly impressive. Ms. Bronte's toes would have curled at the unnecessary language but the joy of the film was that instead of being deafened and infuriated by obtrusive and unsympathetic backgroud 'music' as in almost every other production, here we heard the wind and rain, etc., - natural sounds which were much more evocative and impressive. This made it a joy to watch and listen to. When will someone invent a button to press which will get rid of all the rubbish that spoils almost everything else?

I just wanted to point out that this was a re-imagining, so of course elements will change. I loved the hand held camera, the use of natural light and the lack of dialogue. For me, it wasn’t necessary; it still build up the closeness of the 2 characters, who needs speech? The casting was brilliant; the two youngsters did very well in the challenging roles before them. I have read the book and seen many adaptations but this one actually made me feel for the characters. Yes, the content is bad: animal abuse, the beatings, the 2 lovers never being able to be together, but that’s the story and that’s what it was like. The idea of Heathcliff being black only made it more realistic and understanding for me. The first half gave a feeling of anguish and that feeling did continue in to the second half. To be honest, the first half was my favourite. The 2nd part felt like it was trying to conclude and the characters did seem different from the characters the kids created. I do believe more could have been done with the 2nd half to conclude the story and create more emotion but I believe the director was attempting to be true to the novel. The acting of the later Cathy and Heathcliff did not evoke as much emotion as the first too and for me the story, although a lot seemed to be happening, moved way too slowly. I believed the director did so much with the first half with regard to the camera work, it was unnecessary in the future and the story could have moved much quicker without the slower scenes. Saying that, as someone else here pointed out, the character of Heathcliff became very isolated and this was put across brilliantly. This is not a Hollywood big budget with beauty queens; it’s a retelling of a classic novel, raw and very skilfully delivered. I rarely watch tv but this film really gripped me within the first 10 minutes. Very well executed.

This is a good film we think the first hour when their young is allot better then when there older .. didn't think Solomon would have been so good at acting... known him ages and it was a good feeling watching this film bit disappointed that the parts where they was grown up ruined the film much preferred it when they was younger but the film was still good and would recommend others to watch

Dreadful dreadful dreadful, and where was animal protection??!? Am I the only one who thinks those poor little dogs shouldn't gave suffered for a second. Ithose scenes upset me so much they made me sick. I stopped watching altogether at the second Hanging of the Dogs. Disgusting.

What part of the story the film covered wasn't bad (though the older Cathy and Heathcliffe didn't look much like the young ones had), but I was hugely disappointed by the film deciding to cut off when it did: Missing out some of the most interesting psychological elements of the story. Almost like a simplified, Disney version, but with very strong language and animal cruelty.

My feelings were changing as I watched it and reflrected the pros and cons above. Interesting to learn that much of it was filmed up North near Thwaite, in Swaledale: a well chosen location, to any one who also knows the Haworth Moors. And the two young actors did well in challenging roles, Their beauty, at times, left one longing for more! The lack of resemblance between the younger and older Heathcliff & Cathy was disappointing

Tacting reminiscent of a very serious and worthy sixth form play, direction at a level of desperation to be different (in which case why base it on somebody else's work?) and the net result is unadulterated tedium. All the tricks become very quickly boring - shaky hand held camera shots, murky lighting, lack of dialogue, close ups of beetles. Just awful.

I was in Thwaite when the film was being made.The actors had to endure days and days of rain and wind and all the scenes are authentic.It was truly all done on location with no studio shots.The farmhouse used was also mainly left as it had been except for repairs to the roof and chimneies.I have been there since and it really is a hovel and all the scenes were taken in situ--the candles,the fires.the dirty walls and passageways and the broken walls and rough cobbles. Strangely perhaps anyone being lucky enough as I was to be "on location" may have reviewed the film differently,I was impressed with the outcome and imagine life being as raw as the film depicted in the bleakness of the moors in the early 19 century.It made one think because there was no "tarting up" or romanticising the life that the tortured Heathcliff was forced to lead.I've even ordered the DVD!!

Oh Dave. Your review is close to the biggest embarrassment I've experienced in a long time of cinema reviews (only Jason Solomon has made me feel this aggrieved, although to be fair to you, Jason creates a level of despair in me on a much more regular basis) - did it coincide with an Andrea interview perhaps? Saw Wu(i)thering Heights this evening and it is an utterly painful experience. What you seem to conveniently gloss over is the appalling acting by the whole cast! Yes there are some nice 'nature' shots but jeez there is SO little heart that the films ends up coming across like some amateur dramatic society production. Yes, the horse-riding scene hs a certain erotic charge - but even then Andrea feels the need to have Heathcliffe caress the horse...we GOT IT Andrea, relax, less-is-more. By the time we reach the 2nd half of this totally pointless mess not only do the repeated scenes of trees simply raise the: how-much-longer question but simply seem lazy. FISHTANK was a gem of a film. Do yourself a favour everybody: rent that AVOID THIS. fancy an evening in the cinema? Go see DRIVE or WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and experience TRUE celluloid artistry.

I have never felt strongly enough about a film to submit a review, but I simply have to air my views about this adaptation of Emily Bronte"s classic. I was so disappointed, I don't think I have ever disliked a film so much. I studied this for my A level text 17 years ago, have read the book several times and seen other films and television dramas of the classic. It was so slow and took so long to get going, the lack of dialogue was very annoying, particularly when they cut the classic pieces down "Nelly, I AM Heathcliff......" These are such fundamental elements of the starry that they have to feature in full. The camera work was also very irritating after a while and I was getting fed up of the endless shaking camera scenes and that of the wildlife and insects. The casting of Cathy and Heathcliff was also poor, the older characters playing no resemblance to the younger. I felt the raw passion between cathy and Heathcliff wasn't portrayed either, probably due to the small amount of dialogue. The fact that almost the entire second half of the story was cut out - no scenes of young Cathy (another fundamental part) was a major blow. Please don't go and see this movie if you don't have a good understanding of Bronte's text - you will be very put off and extremely disappointed.

Very disappointing. The first part was good and original, but then the film just got really really tedious. I liked the fact the Heatchliffe was black, I thought it gave an interesting twist, and I liked the young Cathy. Some of the photography was OK too - but hardly as startlingly original as the film critics make out. The last hour was completely unconvincing. The older Cathy bore no resemblance to the younger one, The acting became very wooden and the endless flashbacks mind-numbingly borring, For a film that is supposed to have some emotional pull, it left me feeling completely unmoved. Seriously heavy editing would help. I would be inclined to cut at least 60 minutes off it.

Surely I can't be the only person who thinks that this film is incredible? It's about time someone summed up the true spirit of Wuthering Heights. After years of watching adaptations that apologise for if not ignore the and unrelenting darkness, violence and downright weirdness of the book this adaptation was a breath of fresh air in its honesty and authenticity. Just like the book It's baffling and ambiguous, and asks more questions than it answers, but is nonetheless absolutely compelling. The book isn't an easy one to read for anyone, and nor should the film be an easy one to watch. Some of the acting is occasionally a little wooden, and yes, grown-up Cathy was treated almost unrealistically well by puberty, and fair enough - anyone expecting a Victorionaphillc tragic yet bittersweet romance will be sorely disappointed. Specks in the ocean of a what is overall a hugely successful adaptation.

Dreadful, worst film I've seen in ages, never seen so many people walk out of a cinema. This is just overly artistic indulgence by a talentless director, horrid to watch and painfully slow, what a sheer disappointment!

I have just returned after watching this film with three friends . We were all so so disappointed . For me, I felt excited for about half an hour since the film is so stripped of all the usual period drama stuff and is raw , punishingly cold and desolate with the characters so clearly the product of a cruel, harsh , uncompromising environment . BUT then the imagery became repetetive ( oh , another moth trapped on glass, a bird trapped behind bars etc The hand held camera made the film seem intimate and pulled you into the bleakness of the landscape and Heathcliffe's sitution ... But Again, the shots that were out of focus, in near darkness with almost inaudible diction became irritating . What seemed fresh at first became a parody of itself within a single film !! Yes, the characters would not waste words but they would deliver with some passion those they did deliver . The taciturn character of Hindley that still sat in period did not sit comfortably with the language used eg 'Fuck off you cunt' etc. The film moved forward in a repetative . self -indulgent, laboured way and I ( and friends) could not wait for it to end. I did not empathise with or emotionally engage with any characters ,despite the novel delivering passion . So . ok strip away the hackneyed , the obvioue , but replace this with something ...SOMETHING !!! Worst film of my year...best Kevin and A Separation .

A torturous and dreadful film, possibly one of the worst I’ve seen in a very long while. Six people, possibly a third of the audience, walked out of the Chelsea Curzon yesterday and they were the lucky ones. The film hardly merits one star, and that is because it is shot in Yorkshire. Go see it at your peril.

Let's make no bones about it - Heathcliffe was an unremittingly mean, cruel, twisted bastard. Little surprise given the pummelling he is given in his youth, and by his unknown but doubtless tortuous route to Yorkshire. So to cast him as a cool, calm, butter-wouldn't-melt cherub from a little cotton wool box in the 21st century suburbs is an insult to Emily Bronte and all the powerful darkness of her novel. That said, the imagery of Yorkshire is authentic and evocative - even though the filming was done in a completely different part to the original setting - but it all drags and repeats itself, while the big house of the Lintons looks as though it's in the Home Counties. The supporting cast are stronger, earthier than either of the young leading couple, and true to the time-honoured Yorkshire tradition of people kicking the crap out of each other. Kaya Scodelario is convincing as the troubled as the older Cathy, briefly injecting a long-overdue shot of real emotion to the proceedings, but she's given so little to actually do that you wonder whether it's Cathy or Kaya expressing uneasiness at the way things have panned out, the film pretty much petering out after the change of actors, while Howson as the older Heathcliffe is sort of Shakespeare wannabe meets opera singer meets a very bizarre "innit"-accented diction. It's a nice-looking film by all accounts but the overall impression is of a pretentious, diluted work. And that soft-cheeked young Heathcliffe is absolutely unforgiveable.

Went to see this film yesterday with my daughter. I have to say I think it's probably the worst film I've seen all year. By choosing a black actor to play Heathcliff the film introduces a racist element which simply isn't there in the book. The lack of dialogue was annoying, and what dialogue there was had been updated, and seemed totally out of place in this period piece. I hated it and so did my daughter, who incidentally has never read the book. She told me that for most of the film she could not understand what was going on. A complete mess of a film.. I really don't get why the critics like it so much when it's obvious that on the whole the audience loathes it.

I think anyone who complains that the film has no 'character development' or emotion is missing the point; the bleak, harsh landscape of the moors is a reflection of the silent, lonely and taciturn souls who inhabit it. And the atmospheric stormy nights (which do get a bit too frequent by the end), represent this elemental longing and in time, callouness of the characters' behaviour. So the lack of dialogue was something I found intriguing, particularly in the first half of the film where we're focussing on Heathcliff's alienation and his longing for Cathy (who is very well played by the young actress). Similarly, it's nice to see a 'period' film not in thrall to costumes, pretty houses and pompous language; this was a warts-and-all, muddy and believable depiction of country life in the early 19th century. The second half of the film does have flaws (the older Cathy is particularly poorly acted), but even then I found Hindley's pathetic degeneration, and Heathcliff's wildly wavering treatment of Isabella, always a substitute for Cathy, an ineresting spectacle. The flashbacks were too frequent (especially as they were all just copy and pasted shots from the first half of the film), but other than that the film was an intriguing adaptation of a similarly strange and complicated book.

I didn't much care for either of Andrea Arnold's previous films, "Red Road" and "Fishtank", finding both of them insubstantial, uninvolving and overrated. However I found the idea of her directing "Wuthering Heights" an interesting one. I thought it possible that it might be a welcome antidote to the rather genteel versions of the novel I've seen in the past. With that in mind I was quite happy with the squalor and brutality depicted. Nor do I have a problem with the film being shot in Academy Ratio as I see so many older films in this format at the BFI. My problem is that the resulting film is a mess. Incoherently made, scrappily edited, with shaky camerawork, incomprehensible dialogue and poor acting. After 40 minutes my companion and I gave up and we walked out, something I last did about thirty years ago. This is a truly abysmal film by a talentless director. It's even worse than "Meek's Cutoff", until now my "Dud of the Year", which is no mean achievement. Not even worth one star let alone the £9.00 I paid to see it.

Inspired by Kate Bush’s wailing, once upon a time I struggled to read Wuthering Heights. So I was pleasantly surprised to see TO had rated this film with 4 stars. I felt this was a film of two distinct halves – from Heathcliff being found, taken in, and then turned out; and then from the point where he returns wealthy and beautifully dressed. I felt the two parts were equally marked out by the photography and lighting, with dark, depressing, chilly lighting to compound the surroundings in which Heathcliff and Cathy were raised, which was then contrasted with the vibrant, beautifully lit home in which Cathy lived with husband, Edgar. I was very impressed with this film. I thought the story was well told, well scripted, and flawlessly acted. But, as I loathe noisy popcorn munchers, I chose to see this film at Cineworld Chelsea, where I thought the story would be known, the film well received, and the audience silent. Not only were we 20 in number, but 5 people left. I’m not sure this will win awards, but from me it gets 7/10 – or generous 4 stars.

Didn't enjoy this film, it was almost painful to watch, esspecially the second half. I was exhausted at the end! Very repetative, didn't like the characters or feel any sympathy for them, just wanted to give them a good scrub!! The camera made me feel sea sick. However, film stayed with me for days afterwards, couldn't seem to shake it, but not in a good way!!

Dreadful. Absolutely everything appeared to be done for effect.Howson's acting was appaling and it never stopped raining.

The introduciton of race into this adaptation is a misreading that casts all negative reactions to heathcliff as racism. the direction is clunkingly cyclical (oo quick lets chuck in some running about on the moors again!) the updated dialogue woefully leaden, and James Howson as Heathcliff, Kaya Scodelario as Cathy have no chemistry. Indulgent moor-wank.

shaky camera, out of focus, more blustering wind than dialogue, 4:3 aspect ratio?. Arty for the sake of arty. Some nice shots but they don't make up for a confusing tale. It isn't believable that society would let a young black boy and a white girl in rural Britain to hang out. So many plot details missing... very powerful story in a twisted way.

I agree with the comments above, very hard to get into. Very long and draining, I didn't feel like I cared about the characters - although the cinematography is at times stunning (held back by the annoying old academy aspect ratio), I didn't enjoy this film as much as I was expecting to///

This film is awful. Don't waste your time or money to go see this. Terrible poster as well - makes the film look like it's called "Love Is A Force Of Nature". A great book, though.

This film wallowed in dirt and misery from start to finish with no thought or insight given to the characters - the love story is completely lost in all this grime. Arnold really needs to change the record with these staggeringly obvious animal analogies - the horse in Fish Tank was bad enough, but here we're battered with them. The editing of Nicolas Chaudeurge and the photography of Robbie Ryan manage mask a huge amount of problems, so kudos to them. All of that said, this is still Arnold's best film!

The film left me cold. I thought it was poorly cast and the actors were not very good. The cinematography was excellent, but the sheer brutality and cruelty on screen, coupled with the lack of emotion, made this an unpleasant film to sit through.