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Friday, September 22, 2023

Frances O’Connor & Oliver Jackson-Cohen Talk ‘Emily’

Emily is Frances O’Connor’s directorial debut. It depicts the brief life of 19th-century English writer Emily Brontë before she wrote her famous novel, Wuthering Heights. It stars Emma Mackey in the titular role, in (arguably) her best act yet. O’Connor is known for playing strong characters in titles like Blessed and The Missing. But despite being her first filmmaking endeavour, she presents a kaleidoscopic canvas of pain, talent and tightening emotions.

In fact, the film’s voice seems to come from a very personal place. “When I was a young woman, I felt like there was a gap between who I really was and who I was supposed to be. I feel like that is something Emily also experienced,” O’Connor tells Filme Shilmy. “She was a very unique person. An introvert, but had this amazing creative spirit to her and energy. I’ve always deeply related to her as a person. I’m also a fan of her literature and poetry.”

Across the slate, women are taking centre stage in almost every field. When it comes to the movies, just last year a title like Spencer summarises the emotional vulnerability of women. Like Emily, that too is a fantastical re-telling of a real-life icon. Even in Indian films now, we see a paradigm shift of grey characters emerging on screen. Yet somehow, patriarchy is not a thing of the past. Frances says: “Cinema is still very dominated by the male perspective. The Marvel films are great, I love them. But what’s great now is that they have softened the ‘hard-core masculine’ kind of personality.”

She adds: “I still feel that if you don’t have women directing behind the camera, then the masculine perspective will be there. I am interested in making films which reach many people and could be part of the conversation about changing that. It’s thrilling if people can connect with this too.”

Watch Frances and Oliver’s interview with us here:

The feminine energy is not just shown through the Brontë siblings in the movie, but also through the brother character, Branwell (played by Fionn Whitehead). Then there is the lead protagonist William Weightman, essayed by The Haunting Of Hill House‘s Oliver Jackson-Cohen. Cohen, who is known for playing grey-layered roles, plays another convoluted role. The movie will see him conflicted between his duty to God and his love for Emily.

“I can’t say this for all actors, but I definitely try to do work that resonates in some part of me. Emily for example, it’s all about repressing how much we feel and holding that down. Mind shutting that desire down. We all understand to varying degrees, I tuned into that. All the characters I’ve done, are a part of me, even the really dark ones. These are the part of ourselves that we don’t like to acknowledge.”

Seeing what Bronte and many females went through at that time, how it impacts his perspective on success? “Success is such a weird thing because it changes constantly and is unique/personal to each individual. I feel very fortunate that I do this job to put all my vulnerability and insecurities through work.”


Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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