Bright Star (PG)



Romance (2009)
119mins UK/Australia/Fr/US

Starring: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Thomas Sangster, Paul Schneider, Kerry Fox
Director: Jane Campion
Writer(s): Jane Campion
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

In 1818 London, John Keats shares lodgings with longtime friend, Charles Brown. The building is spacious so Brown rents out half of Wentworth Place to widow Mrs Brawne and her brood: 18-year-old Fanny, 14-year-old Sam and nine-year-old Margaret. Once Fanny immerses herself in Keats' words, she is uncontrollably drawn to the poet and the pair embark on a tempestuous affair.

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LondonNet Film Review
Bright Star

Oscar-winning writer-director Jane Campion ventures back to the early 19th century to compose this emotionally-wrought valentine to John Keats and his lover Fanny Brawne...

Bright Star. PathéBased on Andrew Motion's biography of the poet, Bright Star is a haunting portrait of two fragile souls denied happiness by virtue of their precarious social standing. Money can't buy you love, but in the rarefied social circles of Georgian England, it can certainly deny you a soulmate. So for an impoverished artist like Keats, his inability to provide financially for a wife and children denied him lasting happiness with a woman who was every bit his equal. Campion plays out the heartbreak against the backdrop of Regency-period London, conjuring some arresting imagery such as a young woman walking through a meadow awash with dazzling bluebells, or the two lovers pressing their ears to adjoining bedroom walls, listening intently for the sound of the other breathing. Bright Star is the New Zealand film-maker's most beautifully composed and deeply moving picture since 1993's triple Academy Award winner The Piano, which dealt with a turbulent love affair of a very different sort.

In 1818 London, Keats (Ben Whishaw) shares lodgings with protective longtime friend Charles Brown (Paul Schneider). The building is spacious, so Brown rents out half of Wentworth Place to widow Mrs Brawne (Kerry Fox) and her brood: 18-year-old Fanny (Abbie Cornish), 14-year-old Sam (Thomas Sangster) and nine-year-old Margaret (Edie Martin). Initially, Fanny views the poet with a wary eye, dismissing his poetry without reading it, but she is slowly drawn to Keats. "I'm not sure he really likes me," the young woman tells her mother. "Mr Keats knows he cannot like you: he has no living and no income," replies the matriarch, concerned for her daughter's future. Yet Keats and Fanny are slaves to their emotions, swept up in heady emotions that inspire the poet to compose some of the greatest works of the Romantic movement, including Ode To A Grecian Urn, Ode On Melancholy and Ode To A Nightingale.

Bright Star. PathéBright Star is a triumph on every level for Campion, arousing the senses with its stunning cinematography and Janet Patterson's set and costume designs, and stirring the soul with the emotionally raw performances of the two leads. Cornish is mesmerising in a complex role, at once headstrong yet vulnerable, opening her heart for the very first time. The pivotal scene in which Fanny learns of dire news from Rome leaves us choking back tears. Whishaw is equally impressive as the wordsmith who was painfully naive despite his ability to convey passion and desire so vividly in his poetry. Schneider provides a nice counterpoint in a lively, eye-catching supporting role. Campion weaves Keats's poetry seamlessly into the script as she follows the romance to its tragic conclusion and leaves us almost as heartbroken as Fanny, who never once removed the ring he gave her. True love never dies.

- Kim Hu


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