At Haworth on the Yorkshire Moors during 1845, the Bronte’s lived in which there were three sisters. They were named Anne, Charlotte and Emily. They lived with their retired father and drunken brother, Branwell Bronte who quite frankly, is an oxygen waster. The sisters don’t believe society will accept them as writers yet they write nonetheless, as they are fearful of what would happen to them if their father and brother should die without leaving anything for them to live on.
Charlotte is quite taken with Emily’s work and encourages her to write a novel, a story that would latter become Wuthering Heights, an epic novel that has become the enemy of many GCSE students but one of my greatest ventures. This television film follows all three sisters, loosely based on their experiences writing under male pseudonyms, so they will be accepted for publication. Their literary success allowed them to ‘come out’ as women and save their home. This is their story and it’s an interesting one at that.
This isn’t your typical Christmas-time movie. So when I saw there was an adaptation of the Brontes airing on BBC One, I knew I had to take a look. I have seen these sorts of adaptations before but this was something special and it’s the best rendition of their lives I’ve ever seen. The BBC have upped the ante of late, with their quality television shows. They’re widening their pallet and breaking more boundaries. Unlike many of their other period dramas, this film wasn’t gift-wrapped like a box of Ferrero Rocher but more realistic to the time, as there isn’t always a happy ending.
The hair and costume design was ace with the acting being fittingly slow, subtle and not over the top. It’s just not that kind of period drama. The actors were well-cast with Jonathan Pryce (Wolf Hall) as Patrick Bronte, fresh from the set of Game Of Thrones. The sisters are plain looking which adds to their mysteriousness but they’re also feisty, utilizing their abilities to think independently but differently as well, a controversial notion for the Victorian era. The actresses cast as the Bronte sisters worked well together, in addition to Adam Nagaitis as their brother, Branwell. Their shenanigans showed us the complexities of Victorian life but also the Victorian definition of morality.
I really liked the writing and portrayal of Branwell’s character. He was the most gritty and brutal out of all them and it was a direct reflection of the turbulent times they lived in. The effects of his addictive personality are shown in full force, as he singlehandedly nearly destroys the family with his substance abuse. The approach Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley) took with Branwell has to be commended. Much alike to her writing of Happy Valley, she doesn’t pull any punches, showing the audience everything, just as it should be.
Like many films of this nature, the most potent theme is gender in an oppressive society. The struggles of female writers in Victorian times is a big test of character. The way they showed this is truly great but it also shows us that there are men out there who didn’t see women as commodity items. The scene at the publishing house was sensational. We saw a side to the patriarchy that wasn’t trying to keep women down all the time. Often in dramas of this calibre, men are portrayed as the villain and nothing else.
Charlotte had the true grit to motivate the other two, and because of her, they all got published. All three sisters were excellent and their authenticity made the narrative even more grounded. The drama was shot on location in Haworth parsonage in Yorkshire. This is as realistic as it can possibly get, in conjunction to the sisters’ personalities, the Yorkshire accents and family politics. With excellent performances, potent themes and a visually captivating set, To Walk Invisible should be on every period drama fan’s watchlist in the new year.