So I at long last finally got to watch this movie. Bright Star has been on my “to-watch” list ever since I heard that such a movie was being made.
Based on the three-year romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, which was cut short by Keats’ untimely death at age 25.
Major Spoilers Ahead!
Once again, I ask myself, “Where to begin?” Well, to start with, the cinematography from the very frame was just amazing. Lots of close ups, different angle shots, wide shots…every frame was like art (and alternatively can be made into a million icons; pretty much every frame can be made into an icon…oh, the possibilities ^^). The cinematography captured the stillness of a scene (i.e. it’s winter outside and everything is still) or the natural comings and goings of an environment (i.e. the wooded area during spring/summer). Sometimes you get a shot from John Keats’ perspective, looking out the window to where Fanny and her siblings are out playing. It’s absolutely stunning and it works perfectly with the feel of the movie.
The story was pretty straightforward, focusing on Fanny and John’s relationship and the ups and downs of it as they face Keats’s health and the course of his ventures as a poet. It doesn’t start with how they met, which I thought was a little surprising, but I suppose that might add another half-hour to the course of the movie.
But moving along, Campion and the actors did an amazing job in conveying the power of Fanny and John’s love and deep attachment. I found myself squeeing like a fangirl for most of the movie because you really find yourself rooting for these two; you can feel the longing and the tension between the two of them: the looks, the little smiles, the way they touch the wall, knowing that the other is on the other side…it’s too precious and it shows how their love and longing falls to even the smallest of gestures. When they’re apart, you’re longing for the scene when they reunite.
Both leads were superb. Abbie Cornish was absolutely marvelous as Fanny Brawne; she really conveyed both the witty, playful side of her character as well as the more melancholic side. Much of the movie falls of her; you see Fanny waiting for Keats, passing time, anticipating every letter. What I loved about Abbie’s performance is how genuine she is in her portrayal of Fanny. The scene when Brown breaks the news of Keats’ passing absolutely killed me, the way she went out to the hallway and started crying uncontrollably. Another actress might either portray the scene with some controlled, gentle weeping or uncontrollable, over-the-top bawling, but Abbie’s was just raw. Heck, I found myself tearing up alongside her in this scene. The only other movie I’ve seen Abbie in was A Good Year, which she was also pretty good in but she really shone in this movie.
Ben Whishaw…well, he is Keats to me. He really portrayed the intelligent, sensitive, tortured romantic really down to the smallest detail. I always seem to forget that when Keats is not in his romantic, poetic mode that he was like any other guy who liked to joke around. I really liked that scene in the woods when he confronted Brown about that Valentine he sent Fanny because it really conveyed how strong Keats’ romantic sense really is, how seriously he takes the heart’s affections. But I also loved the quieter moments where he engages in nature and writes. I also loved it when Whishaw was reciting Keats’ poetry…he really has a knack for it. I should also add that I really enjoyed that scene where Keats was teaching Fanny about poetry and the process of writing poetry, the sensations involved and just the point of it all; it’s a wonderful dialogue that, upon reflecting on it, I have to wholeheartedly agree on.
Cinematography aside, the movie really comes down to the chemistry of these two actors portraying their respective characters. They had so many wonderful scenes together, but I think my favourite had to be their last evening together before Keats left for Italy. It was sweet and melancholic and it just killed me of how they spoke of their living together in their own home.
The other characters were interesting, particularly Mr. Brown and Fanny’s siblings. I expected Mrs. Brawne to play a greater adversary in hindering Fanny and John’s relationship and there are times when she shows exasperation about it but I’m glad she wasn’t against it the way that Mr. Brown is. Amusing as Mr. Brown is, he can be an arse sometimes and there were points in the movie when I wanted to kick him for being so…argh!
Overall, this movie lived up to my expectations and then some. It’s not a period drama filled with witty dialogue all the way through like Pride and Prejudice; it’s slower, more gentle and introspective. There’s really nothing about it that I was unhappy about or could have used more of. It’s a pity that this movie was not nominated for more in this award season because Jane Campion did an amazing job with this movie; everyone did. I would highly recommend it if you’re into period dramas or just like a really well done film.