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Bright Star DVD


Jane Campion's period drama Bright Star is set in London 1818 and tells of the secret relationship between John Keats (Ben Whishaw), a 23-year-old 19th century poet and his neighbour Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), an 18-year-old student of high fashion. Although they wouldn't seem like a normal pairing, considering Fanny's initial aversion to poetry and literature, they begin a romantic obsession with each other that comes to an untimely end.

Bright Star was first shown in May 2009 at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival and its title refers to "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art", a sonnet that Keats wrote while he was with Fanny Brawne.

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The tragic but intensely passionate love affair between Romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw - PERFUME THE STORY OF A MURDERER I'M NOT THERE) and the radiant Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish - CANDY A GOOD YEAR) is detailed in this moving period drama from critically acclaimed writerdirector Jane Campion (THE PIANO IN THE CUT)

Drama written and directed by the Oscar-winning Jane Campion about the relationship between 19th century poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and fashion student Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Their romance begins slowly but soon the young couple's feelings intensify as Fanny helps John care for his sick younger brother and John then agrees to teach Fanny about poetry. Fanny's mother (Kerry Fox) and John's best friend, Charles (Paul Schneider), both unhappy with the relationship for their own reasons, are unable to stop them growing closer to each other. Tragedy, however, lurks on the horizon.

  • Average Rating for Bright Star - 3 out of 5

    (based on 2 user reviews)
  • Bright Star
    Barnaby Walter

    Many were ready to love Bright Star, Jane Campion's beautifully filmed biopic of poet John Keats, when it was released last autumn. Some did love it, savouring its dark beauty and intelligent handling of Keats' relationship with Fanny Brawne - a woman who went from neighbour to lover to fiancée, only to have her soul mate snatched away from her by a deadly disease. But some critics inevitably had issues with this difficult work, and to be fair I can see why. The movie is very slow in coaxing out the crux of the story - Keats' and Fanny's love for each other - and sometimes becomes too caught up in tedious details than actual human emotion. But there really is a lot to like here, as Campion's direction always gives you something to think about, even if she gives you too much time for you to do it in.

    In the past I have complained that some films don't let their viewers breathe. They just plough on, forgetting that the audience may want to stop a minute, take a rest then continue. Modern dramas are frequently guilty of this; Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal, although a film I like very much, seemed content in bludgeoning its audience into believing its controversial story instead of letting them come to terms with it their own way. The Road, a remarkable film in many ways, always had an atmospheric but relentless soundtrack of grinding strings, refusing us the luxury of soaking up the look and feel of the picture without constant noise. So this is why I respect Bright Star a lot more than it probably deserves - it really does let one think about the action onscreen. And the action - or character play - really is achingly, melancholically, heartbreakingly beautiful. The 19th Century countryside seems so real, so vibrant yet so sad. The rooms full of crumpled sheets of paper where Keats has scrawled substandard poetry in an effort to make some money - all these are shot with the same sadness as well. In fact, the whole imagery of the film seems to be crying in chorus. It's an immersive experience (James Cameron, take note), but also an incredibly tiring one. As you may have guessed, it's a difficult film to judge.

    Australian actress Abbie Cornish is fine as Fanny Brawne: the tough young woman who aims to become one of the top dressmakers in the country. But her accent is at times shaky, and she is constantly eclipsed by a wonderfully understated performance from Ben Wishaw as Keats. I regard Wishaw as one of our country's best young actors (if this sounds like hyperbole, take a look at him in Criminal Justice and you'll see what I mean), and he brings a perfectly judged vulnerable charm to the much-loved, and never resorts to the lazy "artist in crisis" performance many actors keep stashed in their cupboards.

    There are some very memorable scenes between the two leads, the most notable being the one and only kiss the two share. But I'm sad to say that this is also one of the few moments the we are allowed to feel involved in their love, whereas for the rest of the film it feels as if we are kept at a great distance with a veil of "beautiful photography" clouding our vision.

    It's obvious from the start how John and Fanny's doomed romance is going to pan out, and Campion gives us a suitably morbid closing scene which sees a grief-stricken Fanny reciting her fiancée's poetry as she walks on a winter morning. It is an evocative, if depressing end, but feels weird coupled with the voice-over poetry reading that is played over the closing credits. This is a very odd film. When it gets hysterical, you want to tell it to calm down. When it is calm, which is about ninety percent of the running time, it threatens to become turgid and (I know, I feel bad saying it) possibly a little boring. Campion may have an eye for imagery, but she also assumes her viewers have a lot of patience and are ready to forgive her weaknesses.

  • Bright Star
    Editor Review

    Bright Star is a marvelous film that's in a different class compared with other bio-pics. It tells of one of the greatest love stories in English literature and is told from the unique perspective of Fanny Brawne, making it fresh and intense. As you would expect, this film is poetic, but it isn't overly precious about it, as Campion simply scatters verse throughout the film.

    With outstanding performances from all the cast, stunning cinematography and superb attention to detail - especially with the costumes, Campion has managed to produce a spirited and soulful account of Keats' life and a movie that is completely intoxicating.

    Well worth a watch!

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