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‘Emily’ 2022 Movie Review – A Fascinating Biopic About Emily Brontë

Immerse yourself in the imaginative world of Emily Brontë in Frances O’Connor’s new gothic-inspired period drama. Here is our review.

Emily (2022) Movie Review

Emily 2022 movie review featured image with Emma Mackey in blue dress

I had mixed expectations going into the Emily movie. As a longtime admirer of Emily Brontë, I was curious to see how this movie would bring her story to life – especially with Mansfield Park actress Frances O’Connor writing and directing. With O’Connor’s experience acting in period dramas herself, I hoped that would translate to something interesting on the screen.

And yet, since Emily Brontë is such an enigmatic historical figure, I worried about how O’Connor would depict her for a modern audience. Thankfully, I really enjoyed the film – despite its historical inaccuracies.

Intriguingly, O’Connor steps away from historical accuracy in this period drama and instead chooses to tell a tale full of romance and Romanticism with allusions to Wuthering Heights – as if Emily Brontë wrote the screenplay herself.

Ultimately, the Emily 2022 film takes you on an emotional journey into a transformative period of Emily’s life, highlighting her development into a rebellious and influential literary figure.

With a talented cast featuring Emma Mackey, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Alexandra Dowling, Gemma Jones, and Fionn Whitehead, the atmospheric movie leaves a lasting impression – even if it’s pure historical fiction.

RELATED: To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters – A Bleak Yet Wonderful Biopic

Thus, despite taking some obvious creative liberties with the known historical facts of Emily’s life and her equally talented sisters, Charlotte and Anne, Frances O’Connor created a vivid portrayal of the spirit and determination that fueled Emily Brontë’s short literary career.

Through haunting cinematography, compelling performances, and a strong narrative, Emily left me feeling more connected to the woman whose dark masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, continues to resonate with readers more than 175 years after its publication.


Emily movie still. Picture shows Emily Bronte writing.
Credit: Ingenious Media/Embankment Films/Bleecker Street Films

Official Synopsis

EMILY imagines Emily Brontë’s own Gothic story that inspired her seminal novel, “Wuthering Heights.” Haunted by the death of her mother, Emily struggles within the confines of her family life and yearns for artistic and personal freedom, and so begins a journey to channel her creative potential into one of the greatest novels of all time.”

Besides following Emily’s literary journey and her relationships with her siblings (particularly her fraught relationship with Charlotte and her complex but close bond with Branwell), a large part of the movie explores the romantic connection between the painfully shy Emily and the kind curate, William Weightman.

While leaving out incestuous implications, it’s evident in the film that Branwell represents Heathcliff, with the assistant curate, William Weightman representing Edgar Linton. Although the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff from the book also influences the passion between William and Emily.

The movie doesn’t avoid portraying the harsh realities of the Brontë family either, showcasing their literary genius and struggles with life and love. It offers a unique glimpse into the raw creativity that shaped these extraordinary authors (and sisters). 


Emma Mackey in the Emily movie (brown dress)
Credit: Ingenious Media/Embankment Films/Bleecker Street Films

Frances O’Connor, a seasoned actress, makes her writing and directorial debut with this film – and she does an incredible job. It’s clear she has a future in writing and directing, and I look forward to seeing more of her work beyond her memorable acting roles. 

The film’s visual language is also stunning due to the skills of cinematographer Nanu Segal, production designer Steve Summersgill, and Art Director Jono Moles. The moors and the tumultuous history of the Brontë sisters are depicted in intricate detail, providing a sense of immersion into their world.

Emily 2022 official poster

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent lighting in the film and the gorgeous costumes from Michael O’Connor. From the stunning blue dress Emily wears, the gothic fashions, and even the outfits using heavier fabrics and earthy tones. 

The clothing captured the essence of the setting – the rugged English moors – while also representing the inner world and individuality of the characters. 

Of course, the music has a profound impact on the quality of the film too. I found Abel Korzeniowski’s score to be a perfect match for the movie, with its haunting melodies and atmospheric sounds accentuating Emily’s story. 

Overall, Emily showcases exceptional filmmaking and production quality, with Frances O’Connor’s directorial debut bringing a refreshing and unique portrayal of Emily Brontë to life. The artistry, direction, and storytelling elements combine, making this film a memorable, if imperfect, experience for viewers (particularly fans of Gothic romance and Romanticism).


The cast of the Emily movie
Credit: Ingenious Media/Embankment Films/Bleecker Street Films

Emma Mackey takes on the challenging role of Emily Brontë – and depicts her successfully. Her intense performance was multi-faceted, showcasing a range of emotions that bring depth to the enigmatic writer. Mackey carries the film with presence and likability – proving she is an up-and-coming star to watch out for.

Oliver Jackson-Cohen portrays the leading man, Reverend William Weightman – a young man torn between his religious beliefs and his passion for the strange and wild Emily. He does a fantastic job conveying the character’s complex emotions while keeping you intrigued about his motives.

RELATED: A Summer Story (1988) Film Review: A Hidden Gem of Romantic Cinema

Other cast members include Fionn Whitehead as the Byron-like Branwell, Alexander Dowling as Charlotte, Amelia Gething as Anne, Adrian Dunbar as Patrick Brontë, and Gemma Jones as Aunt Branwell.

Every actor does an excellent job as they each bring these complicated but fascinating historical figures to life, helping create a memorable and engaging film experience. 

Ultimately, as writer and director, Frances O’Connor presented strong character development and an immersive plot, and watching the movie will make you want to research and learn more about every person and what happened to them in real life. 


William and Emily in Emily 2022 film
Credit: Ingenious Media/Embankment Films/Bleecker Street Films

One aspect of the movie that truly captivated me was the romantic storyline involving Emily Brontë and her love interest, the local curate, William Weightman. While it’s more likely (based on historical research) a romance developed between Anne Brontë and William Weightman, O’Connor chose to explore the “what if” surrounding Emily and William instead. 

Sure, it’s more fan fiction than historically accurate, but it’s still fascinating to watch on the screen. There was a palpable chemistry between them, and their interactions made me feel the intensity of their connection.

The love story is passionate, impossible, and something the real Emily Brontë could have imagined. I especially liked O’Connor’s use of gothic imagery and almost frightening scenes to depict Emily’s story and her romance with William. 

RELATED: 200 of the Best Gothic Romance Movies and TV Shows – Period Drama Style

A séance scene with a mask is sure to stay in the memory of everyone viewing the film, that’s for sure. It was creepy, atmospheric, and shocking while also helping to develop an understanding between the two characters.

All in all, the romantic dynamics between Emily and William were beautifully highlighted, with breathtaking West Yorkshire scenes, amplifying the emotions portrayed. These dynamics, moments, and even the actors’ performances helped me feel the profound connection between Emily and Weightman even more deeply. 


William and Emily movie still of them sitting at the table
Credit: Ingenious Media/Embankment Films/Bleecker Street Films

Overall, Emily was a beautiful and moving film. And while a couple of the creative liberties taken with the facts (particularly relating to the portrayal of Charlotte) bothered me, I recognize that this movie is not trying to be historically accurate.

Rather O’Connor intends to pay tribute to Emily Brontë by telling a story in the same impassioned style as Wuthering Heights.

Emily ultimately captures the rugged beauty of the Yorkshire moors, with O’Connor telling a fascinating, imaginative tale. The performances were also excellent, particularly Emma Mackey in the title role. She brought a quiet strength and vulnerability to the character of Emily, making her feel like a real person rather than a distant historical figure.

RELATED: 100+ of the Best British Period Dramas of All Time to Watch

Emily also didn’t hold back on representing the darker aspects of the author’s life, including Branwell’s alcoholism and opium addiction. 

One of the things I appreciated most about this movie, however, was its emphasis on the Romanticism of Brontë’s work. The film captures the wild and passionate spirit of Wuthering Heights and the deep emotional connection between Emily Brontë and everyone in her life.

I also appreciated the attention paid to Brontë’s struggles as a woman in a male-dominated world, both in terms of her writing and her personal life.

Overall, I would highly recommend Emily to anyone who loves Romantic literature or is interested in the life and work of Emily Brontë. Just don’t expect historical accuracy. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to a fascinating, unknowable author.

Content Note: The movie is Rated R for a couple of lovemaking sequences with nudity and a few scenes of drug use. 

Where to Watch: You can rent/buy the Emily movie digitally and on DVD.

Have you seen the new Emily movie yet? Do you agree with our review? What are your thoughts on this biopic? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image credit: Ingenious Media/Embankment Films/Bleecker Street Films

Four and a half corsets rating
Four Vintage Hearts Rating


Emily 2022 Movie Review pinterest image with collage of movie stills shown.


By on May 18th, 2023

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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