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Wuthering Heights (2012)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that director Andrea Arnold's adaptation of Wuthering Heights isn't a start-to-finish version of the novel but rather a focused account of the first half of the tragic love story. There's a great deal more language ("c--t," "f--k," "s--t," and more) in this unrated film than previous screen incarnations of Emily Bronte's classic. And while there are considerably fewer gothic elements in the movie than in the book, there's still a great deal of sexual chemistry between Cathy and Heathcliff, who go from horsing around and wrestling as kids to kissing passionately as adults (they also see another couple having sex in a field). A few characters die, and there are violent scenes of Heathcliff being flogged, farm animals being hunted and readied to eat, Cathy being attacked by a hound, and a wife being pushed around and locked in a room.
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What's the story?
English filmmaker Andrea Arnold's take on WUTHERING HEIGHTS concentrates on the first part of the story, when young Catherine (Shannon Beer) and Heathcliff (Solomon Glave) become inseparable, spending all their time together on the moors. On a 19th-century Yorkshire estate, Mr. Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) brings orphan Heathcliff home from Liverpool. Although Mr. Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff as his own, older son Hindley (Lee Shaw) hates him, and daughter Catherine grows far fonder than a sister should be. After Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley returns as lord of the estate, but he badly mistreats Heathcliff. Meanwhile, Cathy's run-in with a hound leads to a convalescence with rich neighbors, the Lintons, that appears to transform her into a proper young woman with no more interest in Heathcliff. Broken hearted, he runs away, only to show up three years later with his own fortune and agenda to win her back -- or at least exact revenge.
Is it any good?
There's an ethereal, contemplative quality to the film, which focuses so much of its time on the innocent -- and then feverish -- adolescent connection between Cathy and Heathcliff. There's a gentleness and a beauty to the way the protagonists interact with their land -- even the mud that covers them after they've wrestled on the ground is complicit in their blooming love. Kaya Scodelario and James Howson are excellent as the slightly older but obviously still in love Cathy and Heathcliff. By cutting out the latter portion of the story, the movie doesn't take the more sinister turns but still alludes to the fact that Wuthering Heights shall always be haunted by the doomed lovers.
Arnold caused a minor stir when she decided to cast black actors as Heathcliff in her youth-focused adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic novel. But since the Heathcliff of canon is constantly referred to as "dark" and "Gypsy," there's no reason the actor couldn't be black instead of just a dark-haired white actor. The young Heathcliff and Cathy, Glave and Beer, are the film's real scene-stealers. Without much dialogue, their time spent walking and running and playing around the beautiful moors makes it very obvious how close the not-really-related teens become -- and why they would grow to be undeniably obsessed with each other. In one of the movie's most intimate scenes, Cathy gently, quietly kisses Heathcliff's many wounds from a flogging that her angry brother ordered.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why this literary romance is so revered -- particularly among teen readers/moviegoers. How do Cathy and Heathcliff compare to other doomed lovers?
What forces keep Cathy and Heathcliff apart? What choices do each of them make that led to their separation?
Those familiar with the novel: How does the movie change your perspective of Heathcliff by leaving out the part of the book where he enacts his intricate form of revenge on Edgar and Hindley?
Themes & Topics
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