Wuthering Heights (1992)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Gothic Film, Period Film, Romantic Drama  |   Release Date - Oct 16, 1992 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Near the beginning of their careers -- in fact, it was his first feature -- Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche starred in this perfectly adequate update of Wuthering Heights, directed by Peter Kosminsky. But what shackles it to mere adequacy may be built into the very text itself. Emily Bronte's sweeping novel of tragic romance on the moors is such high melodrama -- in the best sense of that word -- that any film adaptation is inevitably and inescapably earthbound, including William Wyler's excellent 1939 version. The tormented passion and gothic spiritualism of Bronte's work is best realized in the reader's mind, where it can achieve untold depths and vistas no filmmaker can touch. That said, Kosminsky's attempt is as good as any, if a little bit technically uninspired. Fiennes suppresses his natural regality to inhabit the feral skin of Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by the kindly owner of two grandiose mansions, and then abused by his son upon the old man's death. Heathcliff is one of literature's most complicated antiheroes, and Fiennes plays him with a rampaging bitterness that overcompensates for his emotional fragility and broken heart. The cruelty Fiennes shows he's capable of may help explain why the actor was cast as a villain early in his career, including his breakout role in Schindler's List the following year. Binoche is not quite so impressive while playing two admittedly less ostentatious characters. While Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff's star-crossed soul mate, is also quite complex, Binoche plays her with a fickleness that produces markedly different characterizations from scene to scene. Granted, it's possible there's nothing she could have done about that, given the character's troubling changeability as written by Bronte. Janet McTeer, Jeremy Northam and an uncredited Sinead O'Connor also fill out the star-studded cast, making this an involving but not quite enduring Wuthering Heights.