1847 in England
Approx. 116,000 words
Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy in 2009 miniseries as Catherine and Heathcliffe in happier days.
Scaling the heights step by step
Wuthering Heights (2009): Two-part television series; director Coky Giedroyc; writer Peter Bowker; featuring Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Andrew Lincoln, Burn Gorman, Sarah Lancashire
Like the 1992 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, the 2009 television production makes an effort to portray the effects of the Heathcliff-Catherine romance or tragedy falling upon the next generation.
As a miniseries spread over two parts, it can afford nearly two and a half hours to tell the larger story.
The trade-off is it changes how the story is told. Instead of starting with nested narrators recounting the convoluted tale from the present day, the series open with events from about three quarters of the way through the novel, long after Catherine's death but before Heathcliff's, when we're well into the story of the next generation. For reasons the audience cannot guess at yet, the seemingly upright Edgar Linton delivers his late sister's son into the hands of conniving Healthcliff.
It's supposed to tease the audience into wondering what led to this situation, but instead it probably just confuses them. It's a relief when the show moves into flashback mode and starts telling the story of Heathcliff and his Cathy from the beginning, leading up to that juncture and beyond.
Heathcliff and Catherine meet on the moors after her marriage to Edgar in the 2009 film.
Then the film is everything a modern audience could want. Despite a little necessary compression, needed in any adaptation, almost all the plot points from the novel are laid out in sensible fashion. It's a step-by-step presentation of the development of the characters.
The acting is universally excellent, especially from Tom Hardy as a little more focused and psychotic Heathcliff than we're used to in movies and Charlotte Riley as an acutely protrayed Catherine. We can accept them each alternately enticing and frustrating the other to distractionand presumably to death.
The support cast is also uniformly spot on. Special mention has to go to Andrew Lincoln (known since Wuthering Heights for his very different leading role as the American sheriff in nine seasons of The Walking Dead) in the thankless role of the gentlemanly Edgar who marries Catherine, walking a fine line between nice guy and unwitting prig.
If you cut off the beginning and the end, you may come up with the most straightforward and engaging telling of the Wuthering Heights story ever. Unfortunately the latter part kind of drags. We haven't been set up to really care about what happens with Heathcliff and Cathy's kids. The most interesting scenes then are of Heathcliff being haunted by his dead lover. When he dies, the film does too, except for the obligatory final suggestion of the two lovers reunited in death.
Still it's a great version of Wuthering Heights for those who were confused by the novel and just want to know what the hell was going on behind all those displays of anguished passion.