Tom Hardy as Heathcliff is a wonder - his portrayal of obsession, possession and gradual descension into abject madness is one of the finest pieces of acting I've ever seen; his visceral, guttural wail of grief three quarters of the way through the film is a sound that will honestly haunt me for a long while. However, much of the rest of the production is a disaster. The main issue being the arrogance of ITV (and screen writer Peter Bowker) presuming to rewrite so much of this bonafide classic.
For a while, they essentially keep to the book. Things are moved around, and they (predictably enough) add a handful of fairly graphic sex scenes (it's ITV, after all... keep to the original? Pah. Who's gonna watch that?!) but it pays Bronte's book a good deal of respect... if not the audience. However, three quarters of the way through, they decide to chuck the book away and make it up as they go along, even altering how major characters die. I don't want to seem like a stuffy, fustymusty old snob, but hacking this book to pieces in such a way is a literary crime, and the punishment ought to be tv death.
The last half an hour or so makes no sense; you aren't told who anyone is; none of the new people or relationships are given any flesh or dimension... it's just dreadful. If you haven't read the book, you won't have a clue who is who, who does what, and who does what to who. If you have read the book, you'll simply mourn.
The cast is fairly hit and miss... the always wonderful Andrew Lincoln and Sarah Lancashire are both excellent as Edgar Linton and Nelly Dean respectively. They bring gravitas and authenticity to their roles, and their scenes are a bit of a relief after those with Cathy, played by Charlotte Riley. She's a beautiful girl with the best-shaped eyebrows in television. In other words, she was utterly mis-cast: she has a modern face, modern mannerisms and she wasn't believable as Cathy. She wasn't wild so much as self-involved, and the idea that men would break themselves open over her simply doesn't ring true.
There seemed to be little chemistry between her and Hardy, nor between she and Lincoln, much less a love that would destroy the lives of everyone involved.
The final major aspect of the film was the moors: bleak Yorkshire moors, washed out and wild. It was filmed to perfection. If you've seen Gladiator
, you'll know the iconic scene of hand drifting over and through the tops of golden corn. Wuthering Heights uses a similar effect, except it glides through heathers and mosses and along muddy paths. Really quite barren and beautiful.
3 stars can often sound like a damning indictment. In this case, though, I really want to reiterate that some parts of the film are 5-stars. However, some of it is eye-wateringly bad, and their wilfully changing so much of it means it can only get 3. If you want to get to know Cathy and Heathcliff (or if you'll be studying them for school or uni) I should give this the very widest of berths, and read the book
which is still the benchmark for obsessional, dysfunctional, two-become-one love.