Thursday, October 29, 2009

Movie Review: Bright Star

by Julia Nettles

Ending its run at the Belcourt Theatre this week is Jane Campion's Bright Star, a biopic about John Keats. This film, starring Abbie Cornish and Ben Wishaw, details the affair between Fanny Brawne and Keats through Brawne’s eyes. For those who don’t know the story: Keats and Brawne had a passionate love affair that lasted for two years, until Keats’s unfortunate death at the age of 25. The film details the story through the eyes of Fanny Brawne. Initially the two seem unsuited. Fanny is a much more serious student of fashion, and Keats is rather odd, a silly poet. However, there is an intensity that permeates between them throughout the film; it begins simply with a touch of the hand, and gradually moves to hand holding and then kissing. There is a relative playfulness to Keats and Brawne’s relationship when they are together. One scene in particular that displays this lighthearted affection occurs after the couple’s first kiss. A quite humorous scene that happens while the two are trailing after Fanny’s sister Toots. They sneak kisses and handholding through statue-like stances every time Toots turns around.

It is when the two are apart, however, that their words to each other are poignant and grand, and Cornish’s acting when the two are not with one another is haunting. Fanny Brawne’s soul seems to decay on screen when Keats is not with her. Therefore the ending, which I will not give away with the hope that you will see it, has powerful resonance, and was enough to make everyone in the audience tear up.

The equally intense character Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider) causes what at first looks to be a love triangle. Brown clearly dislikes and feels a rivalry with Brawne from the very beginning, even prior to her relationship with Keats, and uses every opportunity to demonstrate her inferiority. In one scene in particular, Brown tries to prove Fanny a fraud by asking her a trick question about Paradise Lost. At points of the film, it is clear that Brown’s issue with Fanny stems from both her presence in Keats’s life and her possession of Keats’s affections. Brown’s overwhelming regard for John Keats makes him act as a jealous lover at times, and Keats’s relationship with Fanny Brawne was obviously very difficult for him to stomach.

The beautiful Hampstead, London backdrop also has a role in influencing the emotional course of the film, perhaps as much as the characters. The poetry read in the film, for example, is that much more interesting and beautiful because it is read in such a gorgeous place. The trees, the leaves, the grass, the wildflowers all play key roles in this film. Even a butterfly’s cameo adds to the depth of Fanny and John’s romance.

Overall, Bright Star was quite good. Ben Wishaw’s performance as John Keats was seemed natural and authentic, and you won’t soon forget Abbie Cornish’s Fanny Brawne. The film’s narrative generally had a very easy flow, and the score capably mixes serenity and passion in a way that enhances the picture. This is definitely an entertaining “art” film worth seeing at a theatre.

Julia Nettles is a Sophomore BU English Major.