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Film / To Walk Invisible

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"If we're to be taken seriously and judged fairly and make anything resembling a profit, we must walk invisible."

A British television Docudrama about the Brontë family, written and directed by Sally Wainwright. It aired on BBC One on 29 December 2016. In the United States, it aired on 26 March 2017 on PBS as part of Masterpiece Theatre, under the title To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters.

The plot revolves around the lives of the Brontë family in 1840s Haworth, West Yorkshire, which was their home. Charlotte (Finn Atkins), Emily (Chloe Pirrie), and Anne Brontė (Charlie Murphy) decide to write novels and send them to publishers using pseudonyms. As they gain success, meanwhile, their brother Branwell (Adam Nagaitis)'s life is in a downward spiral of alcoholism and drug abuse.


  • Addled Addict: The negative effect that Branwell's addiction to drugs and alcohol has on him is very obvious.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Emily when she discovers that Charlotte has been in her room reading the poems she wrote. In spite of her sister's praise at their quality, she is furious that her privacy has been violated and angrily confronts her. This is known to have happened in Real Life also.
  • Blood from the Mouth: As he nears death, Branwell starts vomiting blood.
  • Book Ends: At the beginning and end are fantasy sequences of the Brontë siblings as children, with flames above them as symbols of their brilliance. In the latter, right before the death of Branwell, his flame is shown to have gone out. Charlotte tells him "You can go now" before he turns and walks away from his sisters.
  • Brainy Brunette: Charlotte
  • Byronic Hero: Branwell
  • Descent into Addiction: Branwell's is a main part of the plot.
  • Dying Candle: Fantasy sequences in the film depicting the Brontë siblings as children show them each with a flame atop their heads, apparently signifying their genius. In the sequence just before Branwell dies, his flame has burned out.
  • Fiery Redhead: The red-haired Branwell is shown to have a temper, lashing out at his sisters and father. His substance abuse only makes it worse.
  • Friend of Masked Self: Charlotte takes a letter for Currer Bell (her masculine pen name) from the postman, telling him that she'll make sure it gets to him.
  • Historical Domain Character: The Brontës are the main characters.
  • Howling to the Night: In one scene, Branwell and Emily do this together.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: The sisters come up with the surname they'll use for their pseudonyms, Bell, as they hear the town bells ringing. (It was really a gag based on the middle name of the assistant pastor, Arthur Bell Nichols, whom Charlotte later married.)
  • Love Hurts: After the death of Lydia Robinson's husband, Branwell believes he can finally be with the woman he loves. But he is informed of a stipulation in the man's will that, in order to inherit his fortune, his wife could never have contact with Branwell again. In a scene near the end, the Brontë sisters are discussing a visit from the Robinson children, where they learned that Lydia was remarrying and that there was no such stipulation in the will. Basically, Lydia just wanted an excuse to be rid of him. They never tell Branwell as it would hurt him even more.note 
  • The Mourning After: Much of the reason for Branwell's emotional and physical decline is his affair with the married Lydia Robinson, which ended badly.
  • Moustache de Plume: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë submit their work to publishers using the pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Branwell has one wherein he walks into a room full of people, including his family, laughing hysterically at him. Then he sees Lydia Robinson, the married woman he had an affair with, having sex with another man.
  • Product Placement: Oddly enough, after the solemn scene of the sisters preparing Branwell's body for burial, the film ends with the camera sweeping through the gift shop of the Brontë Parsonage Museum in modern times.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Despite supposedly being mainly about his sisters, the film instead largely focuses on Branwell. It has been criticized for this.
  • Stunned Silence: Anne after Emily relates to her a story she's heard of a man who will form the basis of Heathcliff. Breaking the silence, Emily nonchalantly says "Anyway, if we're writing novels, I imagine we'll need more paper."
  • Title Drop: Charlotte tells her sisters that when they send their novels to publishers, they'll need to walk invisible (that is, hide their true identities behind pen names).
  • Tough Love: When men arrive to collect on a debt Branwell owes, his father refuses to pay it off for him and allows him to be taken to the debtors' prison. However, before he is carried away his sisters use their money to help him.
  • The Unapologetic: Charlotte initially tells Emily she isn't sorry she went into her room without permission (because the poetry she found there was so good).
    Charlotte: I shouldn't have... I know... but I'm not sorry. [Emily rushes at her furiously] I mean, I am sorry!
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: According to an interview with the actor who played Branwell, Adam Nagaitis, he sees his character as being this.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: As the story ends with the death of Branwell, the deaths of his sisters are only mentioned in subtitles.