Bright Star (2009)

Written & Directed by Jane Campion

Jane Campion is a renowned Australian, who was actually born in New Zealand, filmmaker whose films I am unfamiliar with. I have heard of The Piano and perhaps a few others, but I really do not know what she is all about. All I have to go on is this film. I first saw Bright Star when it came out two years ago. I walked out of the theater somewhat speechless. It was a great experience and was hard to put into words back then. Now that I have had the pleasure of sharing this great film with a friend, I will now attempt to write about why I love it so.

Bright Star is a costume drama set in 19th century England. It tells the story of Romance poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw), who was a failure during his lifetime. Keats is accompanied by fellow poet and friend Mr. Brown (Paul Schneider) as he struggles through the death of his brother and his romance with Fanny Brawn (Abbie Cornish). The catch with the romance is that Keats is so unsuccessful that he does not have the financial means to marry, which is upsetting to Fanny because she deeply loves the man, and to her family, who urges her to detach herself from the man she cannot marry.

The only award the film was nominated for at the Academy Awards that year was costume design, which is apt since the character of Ms. Brawn designed and sowed all of her dresses. But in actuality the costumes is just the tip of the iceberg with the beauty in this film. The romance that is told is heartbreaking. Everybody involved knew the circumstances, yet Fanny and John could not shy away from their love for each other. The dialogue sounds like poetry as well, because, well, it often times is poetry. We all know Keats now as one of the most popular romantic poets, but it was not so in his lifetime.

But the single most beautiful thing about the film has to be the stellar cinematography by Greg Fraser. Fraser, along with the great mind and eye of Campion, gradually unleash the beauty of the relationship between Fanny and John as the love between the two blossoms. The film is beautiful from start to finish, but when the two grow ever closer is when the most astounding shots are captured. And to go along with it, Mark Bradshaw delivers a very nice musical score to mirror the romance of the poetry as well as the characters.

The characters are all played quite well by the cast as well. Schneider is the standout, though he also has the flashiest role, delivering great comedic timing and expression as well as a good deal of emotion when the part calls for it. Whishaw also shines in his subdued, depressed yet in love depiction of John Keats. The chemistry he and Abbie Cornish have together feels very real and makes the romance and the film that much more believable.

On the second viewing perhaps I was not as enamored with the romance, the cinematography or the film overall as I was the first time, but it remains a great film with technical brilliance as well as a beautiful humanity about it with the romance and the performances that will make it a film well worth revisiting as often as possible. And for those that have not seen it, I hope your experience with it will be as good as mine was.


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