DIRECTED BY Andrea Arnold
STARS Kaya Scodelario, James Howson
Director Andrea Arnold takes the revisionist route with her adaptation of Wuthering Heights, refashioning the Emily Bronte chestnut to serve as a treatise on race as well as class. Her Heathcliff is a young black man (played by Solomon Glave and later James Howson) forced to deal with the prejudices of those around him, even as he pursues a tempestuous relationship with the doomed Catherine (Shannon Beer, then Kaya Scodelario).
Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender were initially attached to this production that went through many hands, but once Arnold (best known for the art-house hit Fish Tank) became its guiding light, she jettisoned all professional actors (Portman and Fassbender were already long gone by then), made the pointed changes to the screenplay she co-wrote with Olivia Hetreed, and opted to go with newcomers. For the most part, the amateurs hold their own, although the first half of the picture — focusing on the younger versions of the lovers — is more potent and inventive than the second half, which becomes more rigid as it works overtime to follow the dictates of the source material.
This won't replace the 1939 Laurence Olivier-Merle Oberon classic as the definitive screen take, but Arnold's atmospheric direction and the stunning camerawork by Robbie Ryan (who's already won several international awards for his lensing here) help counteract a certain degree of lethargy in a respectable retelling that fails to scale any new heights.