Jane Campion’s ‘Bright Star’ gives us an insight into the life of back then unsuccessful poet John Keats (Ben Wishaw) as his intense and challenging relationship with Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) develops under the concerned eyes of her mother (Kerry Fox) and Keat’s best friend Mr Brown (Paul Schneider).
The film is set in a small village near London in the early 19th century. When Keats, a student of medicine and poetry meets the fashion enthused Fanny, all they seem to have in common is a mutual sense of humour and a certain fascination they both seem unsure what to do with. However when Keats’ brother Tom (Olly Alexander) dies after a period of suffering from tuberculosis, Fanny is the one who manages to soothe John. As he agrees to teach her poetry, their mutual affection grows and is put to the test of separation, distance, disapproval and hopelessness. With Keats having to relocate places and society-enforced problems due to his poorness, mournful situations emerge in between joy, affectionate teasing and outside dancing with the greatest disturbing force of all yet to come.
Poetry is the Soundtrack of the movie which has been written and directed by Jane Campion from New Zealand (also known for ‘The Piano’, 1993) who has just returned from a 4-year break.
All characters show extraordinarily performances. John Keats, played by Ben Wishaw (also starred in ‘Perfume, story of a Murder’ or ‘Brideshead revisited’) appears instantly charming whereas Fanny, rather reserved at first, reveals the nature of her character in time. Abbie Cornish (also known for ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ or ‘Candy’) is one of those interesting actresses whose beauty seems to change with each camera angle.
The movie is beautifully filmed with attention to detail, such as the magnification of the movement of Fanny’s knitting needle. The changes of the seasons are brightly captured with fields of yellow and light purple wildflowers followed by snowy winters that make you reach for your jacket in the cinema. The costumes are a pleasure to watch, especially Fanny’s self-made collection of pieces which range from classic to beautifully unique.
The film tells us about love in reality and love in our imagination and the beauty and darkness of both. Fanny remarks during one of her first conversations with Keats: ‘Hope should not be mistaken with results’. As if she knew this struggle would become a central element of their relationship.
Their love evolves rather quietly which seems to make it all the more powerful. It is as if the intensity of their first kiss is disproportionally related to the emotions behind it. In spite of this tranquillity, there is never room for doubt of the intensity of their feelings, their unbearableness at times and power. For some it may be too much but I found that in spite of the emotional ‘overdose’ throughout the movie, it manages to sustain a basic calmness. Whenever you think the movie is too quiet, you get swept away by the power of its simplicity. It is a film that reels you in.
In sum, a movie that makes you want to feel and seize the day, which in this case means: lie all day in the green grass and write poetry (even if the only book you have ever read in your life was Spiderman). It leaves you thinking, if you haven’t loved like this, you have missed out on something.