I just finished watching To Walk Invisible for probably the thousandth time and I’ve come away that That Feeling again. You know, that overwhelming feeling of love for the Brontë family. They have meant so much for me, for literally the longest time, and that biopic somehow always makes that connection stronger. To Walk Invisible is a biographical film of the family, specifically looking at Branwell’s downfall and the sister’s emergence into the literary world. Sally Wainwright, the director and writer, managed to do such a brilliant job at capturing this moment in time.
Branwell and his undoing is reproduced so beautifully. The biopic tends to divide people: they either come away feeling an immense amount of sympathy for him, or they come away loathing him. I’m one of the former. I think Wainwright does such a good job at humanising Branwell, and capturing all the demons that tormented him. He was such a skilled artist, but there was so much pressure on him to succeed, that he inevitably failed to live up to those expectations. He was young. He made mistakes, was mislead, got with the wrong crowd type-of-thing, but he was also human. Humans make mistakes.
I dislike the idea of people hating him. He didn’t drag the sisters down with him. They managed to find success in this time. Branwell may have physically violent to his father, he may have been verbally abusive, but we cannot forget that he was haunted by a spectre. He never walked alone. It was his ruin. And I feel such a colossal sympathy for him. Wainwright portrays him, not as a demon, not as an angel, but as a human being. I think that is the most defining quality of the show. It brought to light something that we often neglect. Branwell was as much a part of the family as the sisters. He lived a life worth knowing about.
Wainwright also did a spectacular job at capturing the sisters, each as their own individual person, but as a collective body who did almost everything together. Anne had her own voice, which brought her out of the shadows of her sisters. The dynamic of the sisters was portrayed perfectly; Anne, who didn’t give up when Charlotte dismissed her ideas; Emily, who was a feisty entity who valued home life and nature;, and Charlotte, who got Shit Done. Their relationship with each other is so endearing; they thrived of each other, discussed their novels together, cared for Branwell together.
I don’t really know why I’m writing this. I just had to sit down and talk about the Brontës, but I’ve already written all the reviews, discussed why I love this book or that, talked about visiting the Parsonage, and so on. After watching To Walk Invisible, though, I came away with this feeling of intense love for the family. As I said, they mean so much to me. They have introduced me to an sea of possibility, a love of Victorian literature, a love of biography, and so much more. I am so happy that Wainwright managed to capture the true reality of their lives, dispelling those lingering myths.
Yes, they lived tragic lives, with Branwell, Emily and Anne all dying within a year of each other. Patrick, their father, out surviving them all. Emily dying thinking she was a failure. Charlotte dying without seeing The Professor published. But they also lived such fulfilling lives. They have taught me to keep trying because eventually things will work out. They taught me what unconditional love is. They taught me what Victorian life was like. They have, in essence, taught me so much.
To Walk Invisible just reminds me of why I love them so much. I felt like my love for the family was put on the backburner towards the end of last year, but it is fully ignited, and I’m eager to start picking up more Brontë biographies and re-tellings.
Thanks for reading, Lauren X