Ever since they were revealed to the world as quaint country-women, the Brontë sisters have fascinated legions of devoted readers. MASTERPIECE brings these remarkable literary geniuses to life with a beautifully filmed and acted two-hour drama, To Walk Invisible The Brontë Sisters.
Written and directed by Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Last Tango in Halifax), To Walk Invisible depicts the evolution of secluded, dutiful clergyman’s daughters into authors of the most controversial fiction of the 1840s. The drama stars Finn Atkins (Eden Lake) as Charlotte, who shocked society with her edgy epic, Jane Eyre; Chloe Pirrie (War and Peace) as Emily, author of the darkly gothic and disturbing Wuthering Heights; and Charlie Murphy (Happy Valley) as Anne, whose penned the true-to-life love story The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
Also starring are Jonathan Pryce (Wolf Hall) as their distracted father, Reverend Patrick Brontë; and Adam Nagaitis as the sisters’ only brother, Branwell, whose wild and dissipated life contributed to vivid characters in each of their novels.
Based largely on Charlotte’s letters, the film follows the Brontë sisters in the eventful three-year period that saw them rise from ordinary, unmarried women, taking care of the household and their widowed father, to the secret authors of the world’s most sensational literature.
Sally Wainwright’s PBS MASTERPIECE movie, To Walk Invisible, brings the Brontë sisters to vivid life on the screen. Aired in the US on March 26th, the show is available online until April 9th. The film introspectively focuses on the famous sisters as their love of writing and storytelling—and their uncertain future as unmarried women with an ailing father and a wastrel, spendthrift brother—spurs them to publish under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
There were a couple of scenes of the four Brontë siblings when they were children, but those scenes were unnecessary to the plot of the movie. The film also ended with a visually dizzying tour of the current day museum, which didn’t add anything to the story and made the ending come across as slightly disjointed.
The rest of the film was thoughtful, visually gripping, and lyrical. The setting is the West Yorkshire village of Haworth—and briefly the smog-laden bustle of London—and the cinematography is stunning. Nineteenth century England is portrayed in wet, muddy authenticity, interspersed with sweeping scenes of the mysterious and dramatic moors that so inspired Emily Brontë. The actress who portrayed Emily was particularly noteworthy, infusing the character with passion, reserve, and loyalty. The close relationship between Anne and Emily was poignant, and all three young women’s frustrated love of their reprobate brother is palpable.
Atmospheric and elegant, To Walk Invisible is a quiet and tragic family drama, beautifully depicting the fraught bonds of sisterhood, the limited options for women in the era, and three talented women’s diligent perseverance in the craft of writing.
Highly recommended for those who are fans of the Brontë sisters and of historical dramas, and for those interested in the plight of female novelists in past centuries