Composer Isobel Waller-Bridge: From ‘Fleabag’ to ‘Emma’

On this day in 2020, Emma. was released in theaters. A period romantic comedy based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name, this film was instantly beloved for its dreamy, pleasant atmosphere and charming comedy. The mood of a film is set by its score, and for Emma, the elegant yet playful music certainly did so. This was all made possible by the brilliant composer Isobel Waller-Bridge. 

Isobel Waller-Bridge is a British composer who has worked on several well-known films and television series, along with composing her own music. In her repertoire of work, Isobel shows tremendous range, composing across many genres from EDM to classical. In every genre, Isobel’s music is able to evoke a profound emotional response.

One of Isobel’s first and most iconic projects was Fleabag, a television series created by and starring her sister, Phoebe. It’s clear that Phoebe’s choice to bring Isobel onto the team was not solely due to the family relation; the music Isobel created for the show brought it above and beyond what it already was. 

Fleabag is about a young woman, “Fleabag,” who struggles with her identity as she grieves the loss of her best friend. Though the show is quite funny, Isobel’s score communicates the emotional intensity and true drama of Fleabag’s internal world. The end credit music, for example, is a rock composition that emphasizes the edginess and darkness behind the main character and storyline. 

Perhaps Isobel’s most incredible feat in Fleabag is the choral music she created for season two, a season which shows Fleabag grappling with religion, especially as it pertains to her own issues with sex and love. Though Fleabag may crack jokes throughout, when Isobel’s choral composition plays in the background, the emotional stakes of what Fleabag is struggling with become clear. 

Though Fleabag may crack jokes throughout, when Isobel’s choral composition plays in the background, the emotional stakes of what Fleabag is struggling with become clear. 

Isobel has written soundtracks for several other television series, such as War & Peace and Black Mirror. She has also composed for a play on the West End in London, Florian Zeller’s The Son. Since 2018, she has composed the score for six films including Vita and Virginia (2018) and Emma (2020). 

Emma, which takes place in the early nineteenth century, stars Anya Taylor-Joy as a wealthy young woman living in England, who takes pleasure in matchmaking for those around her. Isobel’s job for this film was to create a score that both reflected the time period and brought the film a level of modernity, all while reflecting the romance and the comedy of the plot.  She certainly succeeded in all of this, at the same time creating music that followed each characters’ journey closely. As FF2 Contributor Sophia Jin puts it, “Throughout the film, the music is uplifting and dance-like. It also helps outline a person’s character.”

Isobel has also composed her own album, Music for Strings (2013), and most recently composed the score for The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse (2022), which was just nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. 

When it comes to a soundtrack or score, emotional intelligence can be equally as important as musical intelligence, and Isobel clearly has both. Her ability to bring this excellence to such a wide range of genres means that any story that includes Isobel on its team will be much better for it. 

© Julia Lasker (3/6/2023) FF2 Media


Read Sophia Jin’s celebration of Isobel Waller-Bridge here.

Explore Isobel Waller-Bridge’s work further here.


Featured photo: Credit to Focus Features

Tags: Black Mirror, emma, female composers, Fleabag, Florian Zeller's The Son, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Music for Strings, The Boy, the Fox, the Mole, Vita and Virginia, War & Peace

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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