A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wuthering High School is a modern retelling of Emily Brontë's classic novel Wuthering Heights. Set in Malibu, California, the story follows the passionate but destructive romance between wealthy and brooding teen Cathy and her father's disadvantaged and troubled new ward, Heath. Their encounters are steamy (making out, some fondling, no nudity), and their relationship is intense, marked by jealousy that leads Heath to influence Cathy's behavior in negative ways and to encourage her to cut off social ties with friends. Drinking and drug use is prominent, especially with a character who's an addict, and you'll see girls in bras and underwear, plus one thong bathing suit. Language also is a concern ("s--t," "bitch," "ass," "hell," plus name-calling such as "skank" and "slut"). But parents' biggest issue will be with how teens might interpret Cathy and Heath's relationship, since it's referred to as "love" but in reality is possessive and controlling.
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What's the story?
Cathy Earnshaw (Paloma Kwiatkowski) is grieving the loss of her mother and suffering social exile among her peers at a Malibu high school when her father (James Caan) invites a troubled teen named Heath (Andrew Jacobs) to live with the family. Heath immediately butts heads with Cathy's older brother, Lee (Sean Flynn), who's battling demons of his own, but he and Cathy start an intense romance that further ostracizes her from her friends Ellen (Francesca Eastwood), Eddie (Matthew Boehm), and Bella (Rachel Fox). As Cathy spirals downward under Heath's influence, she suffers another loss that opens her eyes to the dangerous path she's taken, but passion and obsession are powerful forces that may just doom them yet.
Is it any good?
WUTHERING HIGH SCHOOL is a cumbersome modern interpretation of Emily Brontë's classic love tragedy. It tries so hard to incorporate plot points from the 1840s book that the story practically stumbles over them. This version casts Heath as Latino, tattooed, and running with the wrong crowd; he's taken in by wealthy Mr. Earnshaw after his mother (an Earnshaw employee) is deported for immigration violations. His romance with Cathy is no less intense for its modern setting, but even its progression feels forced by the movie's attempt to condense ebbs and flows that develop over months in Brontë's story into mere days. Rather than creating complex, tragic characters, this hurried pace gives the tale a jarring feel and impedes viewers' sympathies for Cathy and Heath's doomed love story.
Wuthering High School also suffers from a somewhat uncertain target viewer pool. The modern setting and young characters suggest it's geared toward teens, but the destructive relationship at its heart make it an iffy choice for this group. Little of Cathy and Heath's negative behavior lands them in hot water, and there's never a point at which they seem to learn from their mistakes. Even tragedy and violence are romanticized in the context of love, and impressionable teens might mistake the destructive central relationship for an enviable one. If yours do watch, be sure you discuss the pitfalls of this kind of relationship and the qualities of healthier ones.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this interpretation compares to the original story or the movies styled after it. Does the modern setting work for this kind of classic? In what ways does changing the setting alter the tone?
Are Cathy and Heath sympathetic characters? What does each crave from the other? Are these desires relatable, or do they border on addiction? What are the dangers of a relationship like theirs?
Loss is a frequent theme in this story. What does each character lose at the hands of another? Is it a sign of weakness, or can it be attributed to something else?
How is the issue of class handled here? Does crossover between classes cause strife? Do you think this reflects how it works in the real world?
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