Bright Star

Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider

Directed by Jane Campion
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3
Community: star rating
5 3 0
September 17, 2009

What do you say about a 25-year-old British poet who died? If you're Jane Campion and the poet is John Keats, you can go with thelove letters Keats (Ben Whishaw) wrote to Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) before consumption ended his life in Italy in 1821. But Campion, in films as diverse as The Piano and In the Cut, has always been intrigued by the space that time, class and culture puts between lovers and the feelings they can't articulate. And so Bright Star is the New Zealand writer-director's raw, sensual attempt to render Keats as experienced by a young girl who couldn't understand the genius of his verse.

It workslike a charm. The rigidity of life in Hampstead, where Fanny and her family live next door to the penniless Keats and his mentor, Mr. Brown (Paul Schneider), only amps the intensity of the emotions thwarted by their formal dress and society's rules. Sex? There isn't any between Keats and Fanny. Only Brown's go at a housemaid brings a carnal intrusion. For Campion, it's nature that represents the swoons and storms of this unrequited romance. The film, shot by the gifted Greig Fraser, is a thing of beauty to match the snippets of Keats we hear on the soundtrack. But the film would remain a concept without the right actors to give it flesh and blood. Whishaw lets us into Keats' secret, anguished heart. And Cornish is glorious, making Fanny a force of womanhood able to take on Brown (Schneider is a sharply witty irritant) when he tries to break the connection between her and her beloved. Cornish catches the fertile mind that Fanny poignantly tries to nurture, knowing she'll grow closer to Keats by deciphering the words that possess him. A literate, lyrical love story in the age of Hollywood crass. I must be dreaming.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Long Walk Home”

    Bruce Springsteen | 2007

    When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

    More Song Stories entries »