Friday, November 18, 2011

Bright Star (2009)

When this film first came out the trailers and Regency era sounded interesting and the trailer showed glimpses of amazing cinematography. But I delayed seeing Bright Star (2009) because I was a bit concerned that it might contain some inappropriate scenes even though it is based on a historical facts. I was very glad when Mel from But when a young lady is to be a heroine posted her Movie Review: Bright Star (2009) because it gave me all the information I wanted and I immediately put it on my To Watch list. I was able to watch this film last month on YouTube and quite enjoyed it.  

I wanted to review this film from a Christian standpoint because I'm sure some of my viewers were curious like me to know whether with film was of interest or not.

Ben Whishaw as John Keats
Story: In 1818 Hampstead, the fashionable Fanny Brawne is introduced to poet John Keats through the Dilke family. The Dilkes occupy one half of a double house, with Charles Brown (Keats' fellow poet and roommate) occupying the other side. Fanny's lively personality contrasts with Mr. Keats' notably more aloof nature but she becomes interested in him after she has her siblings, Samuel and Toots, obtain his book of poetry "Endymion". Despite her efforts to interact with this interesting poet it is only after witnessing her grief for the loss of his brother Tom that Mr. Keats begins to open up to Fanny. Mr. Keats gives poetry lessons to Fanny and they become great friends, but the poor poet is reluctant to pursue her because he has no living and no income. When Fanny receives a valentine as a joke from Mr. Brown Keats is hurt and beings to doubt the purity of her feelings when Brown claims that Fanny is a mere flirt playing a game. Fanny, hurt by the accusations and Keats' lack of faith in her, ends their lessons and leaves. It is not until after the Dilkes move to Westminster that spring, leaving the Brawne family six months half rent in their double house that Fanny and Keats resume their interaction and fall deeply in love. The relationship is strained when Mr. Brown leaves for his summer rental with Keats who hopes to earn enough money to marry. Though Fanny is heartbroken, she is comforted by Keats' love letters, but when Keats becomes ill the following winter it is clear that the couple's relationship is doomed to end in tragedy. This is the true story of famous poet John Keats and the young woman who inspired many of his poems, his own Bright Star. 

Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne
Script: Written & directed by Jane Campion, this film tells the true story of John Keats and Fanny Brawne's short lived romance. From what I've read online about John Keats the film seems to be very historically accurate and true to their real lives and personalities. Many selections from John Keats' poems and letters are read aloud and through the scenes the words and ideas hidden in the poems come alive.

Scenes: This film is essentially a piece of art, the cinematography is stunning! Bright colors and scenes are balanced by darker ones. Nature is a huge part of many of the scenes, flowers inside and indoors and even a room full of butterflies make the scenes truly amazing.

Fanny Brawne's Costumes
Costumes: While staying true to the Regency era the costumes add even more to the beautiful cinematography and often plays with the rich colors in the various scenes. Fanny Brawne makes all of her own dresses and her fashions are at times eccentric and perhaps a bit ahead of her time, she even boasts on occasion that no one has as many ruffles as she does.

Music: Composed by Mark Bradshaw, the music is as beautiful as the scenes, costumes and poetry - all playing in harmony together. Most of the soundtrack is played with stringed instruments but there is one lovely piece called "Human Orchestra" that is "played" all with human voices. The official Bright Star soundtrack is a mere nine tracks and half of them also contain poetry being read.

John Keats                                                      Fanny Brawne

Characters & Actors: Most of these actors are new to me but I'd heard a bit about their brilliance and was not disappointed. The characters were very well drawn and easy to sympathize with.
  • Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne - Fanny, age 18, is a bright, intelligent young woman, independent and passionate. She is devoted to her family and a very talented seamstress. When she reads Mr. Keats' poetry she sees the beauty of his soul and falls in love with him. She is a heroine to rival Marianne Dashwood in her high ideals and romantic mind, when separated from John Keats she falls into a deep depression which takes the life out of her. Abbie Cornish is amazing as Fanny, I could feel every emotion of her heart. 
  • Ben Whishaw as John Keats - Creative minded poet John Keats is a quiet young man, not impressed by finery or wealth but greatly respecting people who feel deeply like himself. When his brother dies Fanny's kindness touches him to the heart and he spends Christmas with her family. Although he loves Fanny deeply and lives later in the same house as her family, he always behaves like a gentleman towards her and her family. The beauty of his soul is expressed in his poem and letters which are so stirring when read by actor Ben Whishaw who truly becomes the poet himself. 
Mr. Brown and the Brawne Family
  • Paul Schneider as Mr. Brown - Even though Mr. Brown is Keats' closest friend he is also very skeptical of Fanny Brawne's attachment to his friend as dislikes her distracting them from their writing. Mr. Brown is a rough Scotsman and not as much of a gentleman as Keats even though he usually means well. He looks after his friend when his health fails and kindly brings news of Keats to the Brawne family. His one great failing is briefly mentioned, when the Brawne's maid Abigail  becomes pregnant he looks rather sheepish, later he visits the Brawne family bringing the baby and Abigail who is now his wife. Paul Schneider is very interesting in the role and portrayed this conflicted character well.    
  • Edie Martin as Margaret "Toots" Brawne - Fanny's youngest sibling is her 9-year-old sister Margaret Brawne who in this film is always called "Toots". She has curly red hair, is sweet, inquisitive and looks up to her older sister. Toots, so simply but charmingly played by young actress Edie Martin, is one of my favorite characters in the film. Like her sister she loves deeply and her good-bye remarks to Mr. Keats set me crying. 
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Samuel Brawne - Fanny's middle sibling is 14-year-old Samuel Brawne who is earnest, intelligent and tries to be the man of the family. He greatly admires Fanny but it's hard for him to see her suffer disappointment when Keats' health fails. I've seen young actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster in a few other period set things, his talents added dimension and charm to the character of Samuel. 
  • Kerry Fox as Mrs. Frances Brawne - As a widow, Mrs. Brawne is a devoted mother raising her children single-handed. She is kindhearted and sensible and although I did like her I wondered a bit at her letting Fanny become such great friends with poets. I'd never seen Kerry Fox before but enjoyed her in the role.
  • Claudie Blakely as Mrs. Maria Dilke - Mrs. Dilke is a great friend of Mrs. Brawne and it is the Dilke's house that the Brawnes and Mr. Brown rent halves of. She's a society lady and a bit of a gossip at times, she introduces Fanny to Keats and helps to advise Mrs. Brawne. Claudie Blakely is a familiar face in period dramas and her role here added some humor and quirkiness.
  • Topper as The Cat - Some of my favorite scenes star the Brawne family's black and white pussy cat. I'd never seen a cat in such a prominent and frequent role in a period drama (except for the "Lacy" pussy cat in Cranford) so this was quite interesting to me. Topper the actor cat was purr-fect in the role! :)
Toots and Samuel Brawne
My Thoughts: Films about historical characters are very interesting to me and I so enjoy the Regency time period that the film portrays. I'm not a great reader of poetry but I really loved the way that the poems and bits of John Keats' letter to the real Fanny Brawne were woven into the story and became alive. The characters were very interesting, enjoyable to learn about. I especially had fun researching about these historical people after watching the film. There were some cute and funny moments and a very sweet story. I usually have a bit of a hard time getting into a story if the characters are too intense or wildly romantic, but even though Fanny & Keats relationship is marked by extremes it didn't sappy and I actually didn't mind the "die for love" attitude Fanny had most of the time. This film doesn't end exactly happily and it did make me cry a good deal, but it's a tender story of love and friendship and I think I'd like to see it again.

My Recommendations: This film is "rated PG for thematic elements, some sensuality, brief language and incidental smoking". Fanny & Keats do quite a bit of kissing and holding hands toward the end of the film. Also toward the end of the film there is one scene (pictured above) where the couple say good-bye for what they think might be the last time. John Keats has kept their relationship physically pure (minus the kissing) and even though Fanny tells him she'd do anything for him he refuses. With her family not too far away, the pair lie on the bed and talk. Also, as mentioned above (under Mr. Brown's character), the Brawne's maid is said to be pregnant out of wedlock but later marries the father. For these themes (even though they were done tastefully) I wouldn't recommend this film for younger viewers. This is a beautiful piece of cinematography with interesting historical facts, beautiful music, amazing poetry and gorgeous costumes. This film is a must see for older teens and adults interested in the time period and the historical characters.

For further reading about these historical characters & the film:

Have you seen Bright Star (2009)? What did you think of it?

Have you ever read any of John Keats' works? Which are your favorites?


Mariah said...

LOVE this movie! And Keats'. You're right about a lot of the story staying true to life. The more I have persona;;y read and researched about Keats and Fanny, I've learned that many of even the smallest bits of dialogue have come from letters of the various real life versions of these characters.

Lauren | Chic Éthique said...

I really enjoyed this movie as well. I saw it for the first time earlier this year and thought it was really beautifully done. You did a wonderful review:) I have read some poems by Keats here and there. He is one of my favorite poets.

Tatiana Tanjung said...

Sweet movie.

Anonymous said...

I watched it almost as soon as it came out on dvd, and I just re watched last week. This has to be one of the best, and most heartfelt period dramas, and like you said it wasn't sappy, even though it was extreme. It was real. I totallly recommend it. And yes, it was very clean. :) Which was a nice suprise.


Kate Gorman said...

Saw this film on TV last weekend and didn't really think much of it as I wasn't feeling well, so I watched it again yesterday and I really liked it. It was very moving and sad. I knew of Keats but I didn't know anything about his relationship with Fanny Brawne at all. Loved the music and costumes. Loved the poetry too.

I want to buy this film on DVD. xx

Melody said...

You said you watched this on YouTube--is it still available there? (I couldn't find it, but sometimes they're under different titles, etc.)

Anonymous said...

I watched it last night for the first time on cable and thought it was EXQUISITE So refreshing not to have to dodge inappropriate scenes.
Ran into your page while searching for images of the film. Beautiful blog.

Unknown said...

You are certainly right in saying the film isn't for too young viewers. It requires quite the lot of thinking and considering, as it is deep as a poem. I only just got introduced to John Keats (by this movie), and have read only a little of his work. Though I look forward to read the rest and be amazed of him writing all of his work in that young age.

God bless!

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