While Glave is convincing enough, and Shannon Beer as the girl Catherine is a joy to watch, their counterparts as adults, James Howson and Kaya Scodelario fail to carry the passion into the second half of the film. The transition is problematical even in the novel, as a gothic image of unbridled passion gets tangled up in a tale of the long drawn-out revenge of Heathcliff against those who he views as his enemies. The situation is made worse in the film as Howson runs into the impossibility of being both the sad-sack victim and an angle of vengeance both at the same time.
As Arnold tries to wrap up the truncated ends of her story, much of the visual inventiveness seems to disappear from the film as well. She leaves the threads of romance hanging and shifts her focus back to the theme of oppression, seeming to suggest with her final scenes the idea that brutality breeds new oppressors. That’s all well and good, but what happened to the tale of transcendent love?
There is much to be admired in Arnold’s film, and for those familiar with the book it provides some interesting new perspectives. Unfortunately, it tries to achieve too many often incompatible goals, and the last third of the film is something of a trial to watch, as Arnold’s inventiveness has largely run out of steam and the performances are not strong enough to carry the story. At the end of the 129-minute running time one thinks fondly on the most succinct, though far from the least powerful interpretation of Wuthering Heights, the 1978 song by Kate Bush, which clocks in at just under five minutes.