Intimate Bronte biopic has sex, themes around addiction.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Emily is a biopic of the 19th-century English novelist Emily Bronte -- author of literary classic Wuthering Heights -- and features drugs, addiction, and sex. Bronte (Emma Mackey) is a strong female lead, but also complex and flawed. She's intelligent, both academically and emotionally, and succeeds in a world that favored the progress of men over women. Love is explored in all its facets; the joys of falling in love, and the sheer misery of heartbreak. The film features a few sex scenes that while featuring little to no nudity, are quite graphic. Drugs are also a prominent theme. Characters try opium and initially they are shown enjoying the effects. But soon Emily's brother, Branwell (Fionn Whitehead), falls deep into addiction with drugs and alcohol. There is also some smoking.
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What's the Story?
EMILY is a coming-of-age story of the celebrated author Emily Bronte (Emma Mackey), which explores her journey from shy young girl to becoming one of the most provocative minds in literature. Drawing her influences from her brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead) -- who spirals into addition -- and a complex romance with a member of the church, it all leads to her celebrated novel Wuthering Heights.
Is It Any Good?
This biopic about one of Britain's most celebrated authors is an encouraging directorial debut feature from Frances O'Connor, who brings her screenplay to life in a unique, but also familiar way. Emily does feel like a classic period drama at times. But likewise it's got a naturalistic feel to it. Its handheld shaky camera and close-ups truly put you into the same room as the characters, rather than have you feel like you're merely observing from behind a pane of glass, as though at a museum -- which can often happen with this genre.
What transpires is an intimate character study. But for that to work, a strong central performance is required. Thankfully Mackey more than delivers. She brings vulnerability as well as a mischief to the role. We get a sense for the writer's fallibility, but also the sharp and witty mind that lives within. The film could have perhaps had a more deft editing job, with the middle act waining somewhat. But the strength of the performances keep the audience engaged.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how Emily portrayed sex. Was it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Talk about the character of Emily. What were her strengths? What were her flaws? Did she feel like a realistic character?
Were you familiar with Emily Bronte's works? Has this inspired you to learn more and read her writings?
Talk about the alcohol and drug use in the film. How was addiction portrayed? Were there consequences to the substance abuse? Why is that important?
- In theaters: February 17, 2023
- Cast: Emma Mackey, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Fionn Whitehead
- Director: Frances O'Connor
- Studio: Bleecker Street
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Character Strengths: Curiosity, Perseverance
- Run time: 130 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some sexuality/nudity and drug use
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
Our Editors Recommend
Wuthering Heights (2012)
Contemplative adaptation focuses on teen passion and angst.
Excellent British biopic has nudity, sex, language, illness.
Interesting but uneven drama about famous female author.
For kids who love biopics
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