Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
United Kingdom/Australia/France, 2009. Pathé Renn Productions, Screen Australia, BBC Films, UK Film Council, New South Wales Film & Television Office, Hopscotch Productions, Jan Chapman Pictures. Screenplay by Jane Campion, based on the biography Keats by Andrew Motion. Cinematography by Greig Fraser. Produced by Jan Chapman, Caroline Hewitt. Music by Mark Bradshaw. Production Design by Janet Patterson. Costume Design by Janet Patterson. Film Editing by Alexandre de Franceschi.
Jane Campion scores her biggest hit since her international breakthrough The Piano with another moody, beautiful period piece about doomed love. In the sixteen years that have passed since her Academy Award winner, and in the six years since her previous feature, the lamentable Meg Ryan thriller In The Cut, the artist seems to have undergone a transformation: Bright Star‘s emotional revelations are intimate and studied, its drama played out subtly to perfection.
Abbie Cornish, who is excellent, plays Fanny Brawne, a woman whose sewing is constantly brightening up ideas of fashion in London’s Hampstead Village. She meets poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw, who is also excellent), and while she dismisses him and his ilk as boring literati (she doesn’t care much for poetry), he thinks her a shallow clotheshorse.
Situations that put them in each other’s way often enough, it turns out, reveal a sympathy between the two, and soon she is subscribing to lessons in poetry from the artist that lead to her capturing his heart while she falls deeply in love with him as well.
The two lovers are a bad fit for each other, he penniless and suffering from poor health, but neither of them can give heed to the advice of either her sympathetic mother (Kerry Fox) or his cynical best friend Charles Brown (Paul Schneider).
Everything that’s visually astounding about Campion’s seven feature films is in full supply here, but it is gloriously muted; it creeps over you in a sweet, quiet way that never lacks for passionate intensity. It’s wonderful to see Fox working for this director again, eighteen years after starring in Campion’s masterpiece An Angel At My Table.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Costume Design
Cannes Film Festival: In Competition
Toronto International Film Festival: 2009