Monday, October 5, 2009

Film review of Bright Star

Bright Star is the story of nineteenth century poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his love affair with Fanny Brawne. (Abbie Cornish) It is one of the most beautiful films of the year. By that, I don't just mean the visual image but its portrayal of the spoken and written word.

The film takes place a few years before John Keats' death of tuberculosis. He is living next to the Brawne family, when he meets Fanny Brawne. For reasons, not defined in the film, Fanny and Keats fall in love. There are other short cuts in the movie, such as why Fanny has such deep sorrow for Keats' brother Tom who dies early in the story. But these are small complaints as the this film is about the art of poetry.

After Fanny reads Keats' Endymion, her love deepens for Keats. This leads to Fanny becoming his muse. This is where the movie becomes magnetic. Whishaw as Keats and Cornish as Fanny have a chemistry that is genuine. Even though the characters don't have sex, you can see that they love each other. Jane Campion's script and direction addresses the spirituality of love, and the beauty of it. Campion depicts great beauty whether it is Whishaw and Cornish reading poetry or filming the lovers walking hand in hand through the woods.

This being drama, there is conflict. But it is not conflict born of cruelty or malice. Keats wants to marry Fanny but feels restricted since he is a poor poet who cannot provide for her. Fanny's family echoes this and advise her to find someone else. Keats also struggles with tuberculosis, a disease that will eventually kill him. Yet, I took from this film not sadness but an unusual optimism. Fanny does love Keats and you believe that if he was able to recover from his disease, she would have married him, regardless of his financial condition. Keats and Fanny had true love. That is a thing of beauty. The grade is B+.

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