38 thoughts on “To Walk Invisible (2016) – Better Bronte, but Still Not Best

  1. I enjoyed it but also felt that it could have been titled ‘To Walk Drunkenly – The Story of Bramwell Bronte’. In a previous post I also added is there a polite term for ‘Little Sh*t’ in referencing thus incredibly boring and useless person.
    What I did like we’re : 1) women wore their hair up in Bobby Pins/Kirby Clips,
    2) No one wore diaphanous nightgowns in traversing the moor,
    3) The colour of the clothes wasn’t drab but in a colour that was telling about each sister.
    4) The sisters were a tight unit: loyal, loving and encouraged each other.

    What I didn’t like was Bramwell, Bramwell, etc ad nauseum. Why didn’t it show more of their creative process?

    Aside but did anyone else feel that the actress who played Charlotte resembled Shirley Henderson?

    1. Bobby pins weren’t invented till 1899. The Bronte sisters would have used U-shaped hairpins.

    2. To Walk Drunkenly – The Story of Bramwell Bronte — HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Yes, he is a little shit, there is no other word for it. I mean, sure, you can’t ignore how important a presence he was in their lives, but films don’t need to dwell on every last drunken episode of his. They could show the affect he has without showing *him* all the time. UGH.

      1. I feel like “bramwell” should be the word for a worthless little shit. “Life would be so much better if my coworker wasn’t such a bramwell”.

    3. Yes, indeed she does! In fact Finn Atkins, the actress playing Charlotte in To Walk Invisible, appeared in a 2002 UK movie Once Upon A Time In The Midlands with Shirley Henderson. Finn played the daughter of Shirley Henderson’s character (coincidentally named Shirley.) Finn was 12 at the time and it is uncanny, and excellent casting, that she looked so much like Shirley Henderson.

      That performance was considered to be Finn’s ‘breakthrough’ role (at 12 years old!) But she had already been a member of the UK Television Workshop since she was at primary school.

      The workshop was set up by Central Independent Television in 1983 to act as a casting pool for young talent in their broadcasting region in the English Midlands. It offered training for young people in performance skills for television, film, radio and theater and was open to anybody between the ages of seven and 21. Entry was by an annual audition process held each spring.

      Independent Television (ITV) was the second TV channel to appear in the UK. The BBC was the first channel, launched in 1922. ITV launched in 1955. The main difference in the early days was that the BBC produced more quality programming than ITV, and unlike the BBC, it was a commercial channel. ITV has of course gone on to become a strong competitor to the BBC.

    1. Oh yes, how lovely! I couldn’t find any other interviews with the designer, bec. I really wanted to know where he sourced those fabrics. They’re such good repros.

  2. Gosh, the casting is VERY good here on the three sisters too – the actresses do feel right for each sister. I look at them, and I feel like they are their books realised as people – Emily intense and focused and a bit brooding, Anne perceptive and intelligent with a touch of vulnerability as if slightly scared of her own insightfulness, and Charlotte as down-to-business and slightly cynical.

    The costuming is fantastic and very class-appropriate too. I’m definitely impressed. I do think the thunder and lightning dress may be meant to be an abstract floral, but it DOES have that effect – there were so many unusual prints from this time period that look surprisingly modern/abstract/even cubist.

    1. Agreed, the casting was spot on — which makes the Bramwell parts hurt even more! I want to see more Anne as a governess or Emily & Charlotte fighting or Charlotte’s later life, just more of the sisters, the were excellent.

  3. Excellent recap. I live about 15 mins away from Haworth, so I got to see bits of this being filmed.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Parsonage were quite heavily involved with this, so I’m not suprised the history/dresses were well done. The dress you’re showing Emily at the table – I’ve seen one in museum storage with exactly the same print!

    I agree that I’d have preferred less Bramwell, more sisters, and less of a truncated ending. (although spotting familar faces *right* at the end was fun!)

    1. I found a lot of behind-the-scenes info about how the team built a replica of the Parsonage, both for convenience of shooting the outdoor scenes & bec. there weren’t trees around it during the Brontes’ lives, but including that shifted too much focus away from the costumes. But I really enjoyed going down that rabbit hole of research! I’ve visited twice all the way form the U.S. & LOVED IT to pieces (yes, I am *that* fan :).

      1. It’s not just the trees – the Parsonage itself has been altered, so it made sense to rebuild it.

        The street scenes are Haworth itself though – those misty mornings were shot on a blazingly hot day in summer last year. I was melting in my light blouse and linen trousers, goodness knows how the actors were coping!

        What I really enjoyed was that it emphasised the nearness of Haworth to things – the isolation of the sisters isn’t physical in nature – Halifax, Bradford and Keighley were all frequently mentioned (and visited), but that the sisters chose to isolate themselves from others- particuarly Emily, I’d say it was made clear in this drama.

        We know they regularly visited Keighley to shop – and frequent the Mechanics Institute library etc.

        If you come for a further visit to Haworth, can I suggest a detour to Keighley, and Cliffe Castle – it’s about 15 mins away, and gloriously over the top!

        I still do wish we’d got more of the sisters at the end!

  4. I agree that Bramwell had too much attention, but, as you said, maybe having him around so much on screen highlights just how much of a negative impact he had on those amazingly talented women. There he was, talented but unable to stick at anything, inconstant, drunk, self pitying and shallow, taking all his parents attention and faith, in sharp contrast to the depth and intensity of his sisters, I was rolling my ears and muttering under my breath about 10 minutes in.
    The costumes took me by surprise, they were much more pretty and colourful than I’d expected and the tall combs, like Spanish women wear with mantillas, so elegant.

  5. Bramwell, oh how I loathe thee
    A movie on the Bronte sisters I tuned in to see
    Cast this drunken lout far from me
    And return to the story of those noble three

  6. One detail I loved about this (apart from the hairpins, obvs) was that Ellen arrived in a coach which was absolutely filthy, with mud all up the sides. So often in costume dramas people seem to arrive at the end of a long journey in a pristine coach.

    1. And the dirty arrival clothes were probably not only mud but whatever animals left until street…
      I’m glad also that the clothes were also Silas’s appropriate.
      Would like to see the costume designer work on more period shows. Mr Pye gets an A-/B+ for his work.

      1. In the street. Auto-correct strikes back. Or is it Revenge of the Auto-correct?

  7. I only caught the last 25 minutes of it, but I can’t stop thinking about that scene where Branwell spits a bunch of blood into Emily’s face and the camera holds the scene for like a solid minute.

  8. I liked how the three sisters stood out from the rather drab backgrounds in their colourful dresses. I also would have liked way less Branwell and more of the sisters. I liked the characterizations, though. It really matched everything I know about them from reading biographies and surviving letters and journals. I loved Emily being portrayed as quite forceful and totally done with all Branwell’s nonsense, which is always the vision I’ve had of her. Maybe since they actually rebuilt the parsonage for this (which was quite impressive), they will use it for future productions. Really, I would like the updated (and better) version of the Brontës of Haworth to be filmed there one day.

  9. I love the scene where the sisters finally told their father about their successful books and he looked so genuinely happy and proud of his daughters after being depressed for so long over his ne’er do well son.

  10. Ellen’s green striped outfit looks very familiar. Like from a certain lovely scene at the end of North and South?

  11. I watched this production knowing almost nothing of the real Bronte sisters, only having read Jane Eyre and seen several films of it. Without that context, the combination of the brisk storytelling and Yorkshire accents left me confused. It was only after an hour down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia and a re-watch that I understood *why* they had to rush to London — they didn’t all use the same publisher for their first books — ohhhhhh! now I get it. To me that’s a sign of bad writing, or maybe some bits were cut in the transition from the BBC to PBS. Either way, you shouldn’t have to *know* the story to *follow* the story.

    From a costuming point of view, I thought the dresses were rather fine for clergyman’s daughters, until Wikipedia helpfully filled in the bit about their inheritance from their Aunt Branwell, that enabled them not to have work as governesses anymore and perhaps financed the quite nice wardrobe we see here. I’ve started to pay more attention to whether clothes look new or well-worn in costume dramas, and most everything here looked very fresh, except on Branwell of course.

    1. They were clergyman’s daughters, but they weren’t poor. The Brontes’ had plenty of books & fine things. There are a couple of Charlotte’s gowns that survive & are on exhibit at the Parsonage these days, & they’re in the fashionable cut of the period, using quite fashionable materials. I recall a delicately sprigged blue gown & her mauve silk wedding gown, several beautifully trimmed bonnets, a fine (& tiny!) pair of silk shoes, & some lovely jewelry.

      Previous TV/film versions of their lives have gone too far in making the Bronte sisters look drab & dull, wearing nothing but one brown-grey dress each. I think this version does an excellent job showing each woman wearing a small wardrobe of discreetly fashionable clothes that would have been realistically accessible to them.

      Their main financial concern, which Charlotte obsesses over in this film, is what will become of them when their father & Branwell are gone.

  12. Thank you! Can we meet and provide a sound thrashing to Sally Wainwright? These woman were facing down 1. having little to no means of making an independent living 2. homelessness after their father died because the house went with his job 3. The ongoing indignity of being dismissed as ‘women’ but by all means lets focus on their 19th century meth head of a brother. His failures weren’t just a disgrace to the family but a threat to their minister father’s job and the entire family’s livelihood (see homelessness above). THIS is one of key factors in the sister’s drive to create a living for themselves. For this bs to come from a woman writer/director is insult to injury. I say we grab her behind the pub with a sock full of quarters

  13. The thunder & lightening dress is first metioned by A. Mary F. Robinson in her biography of Emily, written in 1883: “It was Emily who, shopping in Bradford with Charlotte and her friend [Ellen Nussey], chose a white stuff patterned with lilac thunder and lightning, to the scarcely concealed horror of her more sober companions. And she looked well in it; a tall, lithe creature, with a grace half-queenly, half-untamed in her sudden, supple movements, wearing with picturesque negligence her ample purple-splashed skirts; her face clear and pale; her very dark and plenteous brown hair fastened up behind with a Spanish comb;” (full text: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25789/25789-h/25789-h.htm) This description based on the memories of Ellen Nussey.

  14. Hello, Emily from the Brontë Link here (find us on Instagram!). What a glorious post. As the previous comment states, Emily did have a dress printed with lightning bolts however there is some confusion as to whether the print was, as Robinson states, cream and lilac, or whether the dress as a whole was violet (as I think described by Ellen Nussey). It appears that the designer in TWI went for the more purplish fabric. One further point is that Ellen described the dress as ’embroidered’ with lightning (which would have meant hand stitching!) but perhaps print is meant. We know the girls DID wear almost exclusively print, and mostly delaine – which is an old fashioned material from wool – but it seems the designer here did not know about the delaine..? Anyway OTHER than dresses – i completely agree about Branwell. It’s SUCH an irritation considering; but I suppose it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the specifics of the three unique stories. Dear me – dear us – never mind. Hopefully more versions will come in the future ..! Xxx

    1. I think that, given the costs of hand-embroidered fabric, embroidered was used to mean a printed textile too, or perhaps a fabric that was woven with a design that had an embroidered effect, like brocade weave. It could also have been a print that had an “embroidery stitch” effect, although I can’t immediately think of any specific examples of prints like this, I’m sure I must have seen some.

  15. I visited the Bronte Parsonage Museum a couple of weeks ago. They have the costumes from the film on show all over the house so you can have a really close look at them. They also have shoes and accesories that really belonged to the sisters which was very exciting. I’d recommend a visit if you ever get the chance!

  16. It was wonderful to watch, but was too short! I was immersed in the story, and it ended very abruptly. Bramwell really had a huge influence on the sisters’ lives so if the series was longer, then I would be fine keeping those scenes in. But since the movie could only be 2hrs, then yes some of the Bramwell scenes should have been replaced with more of the sisters’ interactions. But there’s so much more to be told even after Emily and Anne’s deaths. This really should have been at least 4 episodes long. The pacing felt perfect, and the filming, set, costumes, acting was so well done. It’s such a shame it was so short :( Should have just gone all out. Kudos though to those fleeting humorous scenes featuring a certain Mr. Nicholls. I was tickled.

  17. I was impressed with the costumes especially because some elements have come from close reading of not very well known sources.For example the combs Emily hld up her hair with are accurate based on contemporary descriptions and I think there might be one at the Parsonage ,some of the fabrics were based on descriptions too as you pointed out about the lightening dress.What really impressed me was that Jewelry is reproduced exactly and the fabric I think echo fabric fragments in the parsonage collection .Theres also an extremely impressive costume moment thats very unstated ,In a flash back when Emily is talking about Branwells past failor ,shes seen wearing a gown identical to one in the parsonage collection ,which I have seen first hand ,but its not usually on display and was relativity unknown ,so it was a nice touch especially in such a mone off scene.Some of the detailing on gowns was relevant to the characters and echos detailing in some in the Parsonage museums gown collections . I also liked that the gowns quite often had mucky hemlines I have worked in Haworth in costume and on parts of the moors and the amount and depth of dirt was accurate.Emily was known for wearing very few petticoats claiming she wanted to be as God made her

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