Tag Archives: Emma Mackey

Hey, Soul Sister


by Hope Madden

Wuthering Heights was always a conundrum of Gothic literature. It is mean, its tragedies ugly, its heroes selfish and boorish. It’s a dark and misanthropic piece of fiction often mistaken as romance.

Lucky for all of us, Frances O’Connor appreciates the twisted nastiness of the novel and suggests a vividly unusual inner life for its author in her feature debut, Emily.

Emma Mackey stars with an understated but authentic weirdness as the misfit Brontë sister. Emily doesn’t seem suited for teaching, or for much of anything. The stories she tells are childish and they embarrass her sisters, and she won’t let anyone read what she’s writing. She seems to disappoint everyone around her except her brother, Branwell (Fionn Whitehead).

In O’Connor’s loose biopic, Emily finds the space to explore once her sisters are gone off to teach and she is alone with Branwell. The filmmaker slyly inserts memorable scenes from Brontë’s novel as moments, here more innocent, between brother and sister. These moments work on many levels, but mainly because writers draw from their own lives.

The dynamic complicates and Emily’s transformation deepens as an unexpected, almost involuntary suiter comes into the picture. Untethered by the judgments of her sisters, Emily is free to determine her own course and the journey is intoxicating to witness. Mackey glows as her character slowly, finally comes into her own, giving us a dimensional, tender and delicately genius young woman you yearn to know better.

Whitehead charms in a slightly underwritten but nonetheless poignant role. Oliver Jackson-Cohen – so different than the unrelenting narcissist of The Invisible Man – delivers the greatest arc of any character as assistant parson William. His performance is never showy, but moments of vulnerability give the film its heartbeat and heartbreak.

O’Connor breathes life with all its chaos, misery and joy into the Brontës’ 19th century. Emily feels less like the vision of a newcomer than the product of a passionate kindred spirit.

Murder Was Again the Case

Death on the Nile

by George Wolf

“He accuses everyone of murder!”

“It is a problem, I admit.”

This playful admission by legendary detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is one of the ways Death on the Nile has some winking fun with the often used, often parodied Agatha Christie formula.

And since Christie’s source novel is one of the works that perfected that formula, it’s smart to acknowledge some inherent campiness while you’re trying to honor the genius of the original construction.

After his successful revival of Murder on the Orient Express in 2017, Branagh is back to again star, direct, and team with screenwriter Michael Green for another star-studded, claustrophobic whodunit.

This time we’re aboard a lavish cruise down the Nile in the late 1930s. Wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) has just married the dashing Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), and they’ve invited a group of friends and family (including Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo, Russell Brand, Jennifer Saunders, Letitia Wright and no-that’s-not-Margot- Robbie-it’s Emma Mackey) to help them celebrate.

Ah, but love and money bring “conflicting lies and jealousies,” and soon Linnet proves wise in putting the world’s greatest detective on the guest list. Murder is again the case!

And when Hercule Poirot is on it – which takes a while – Branagh and Green craft a capable reminder of what makes this formula so sturdy. From the discovery of clues to the requisite red-herring accusations, it’s just fun to feel part of Poirot’s deductive process.

But while Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos expertly utilize the confines of the ship to their advantage, the surrounding locales smack of outdated CGI and land as a disappointing stand-in for the eye-popping wonder of Orient Express.

Branagh and Green also try valiantly to weave a layer of love through the mystery. Opening with a prologue that introduces a decades-old pining (along with Poirot’s keen eye for detail and a dubious inspiration for that mustache), the film’s ambitions for this added narrative weight are worthy, but ultimately add more running time than substance.

The epilogue that checks in with Poirot six months after the cruise lets us know Branagh may have more Christie mysteries on his itinerary, and that’s not a bad thing. Death on the Nile proves that a trusty return to glamour and intrigue can still overcome some excess baggage.