Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Jane Eyre

USA 2011
Directed by
Cary Fukunaga
120 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Jane Eyre (2011)

Synopsis: Orphaned as child and treated poorly thereafter, Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) eventually become a governess at Thornfield Hall, owned by Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender). Although he is a distant and often peremptory individual, Jane finds herself falling in love with him. He responds to her but will he bring her happiness?

According to IMDB there are 22 big and small screen adaptations of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel. I am not in a position to say where Cary Fukunaga's version sits in that company but I can say that it is a skilfully directed, impressively crafted production (this is only Fukunaga's second feature, the first being Sin Nombre in 2009, a very different but.also effective story about Mexico’s violent youth gangs) . Whilst not likely to be considered the definitive screen rendition of Brontë's remarkable work, it is in itself a substantial historical drama that affords many satisfactions.

Given a two hour window of opportunity, screenwriter Moira Buffini, who wrote the script of last year’s Tamara Drewe, rightly focuses on the main agenda of Brontë's lengthy novel, the relationship between Jane and Rochester. Jane’s deprived childhood is briefly touched on, whilst the post-Thornfield developments with church minister St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his sisters is given only slightly more screen time. If you are familiar with the original story this is not a problem and indeed tf you are not, this may be an advantage as the simplification of  the narrative keeps us firmly engaged with Jane as the centre of attention.

Brontë insisted that Jane was “poor, plain, and little” and that Rochester, if not exactly ugly, was not good-looking. So it is a matter of considerable importance to her story that substance matters more than appearance. This presents problems for film-makers who have little choice but to make their screen equivalents as photogenic as possible.without completely travestying the spirit of the story. As Jane, a scrubbed-down but still graceful Mia Wasikowska is a passable interpretation of plainess, at least by the highly proscriptive expectation of the times but Michael Fassbender, at least to my eyes, looks like what any damsel with a pulse would regard as quite a catch. This would be of little consequence were it not that Fassbender’s Rochester doesn't have much else that appeals. If we consider the relationship between Jane and Rochester, which extends from a first encounter in which she causes him to be thrown from his horse (the metaphoric and Freudian implications are obvious) to his eventual physical dependency on her (blindness as the Freudians would also have it, being a symbolic castration) then the sexual dynamic in Brontë's creation is obvious.  Yet Fassbender lacks the phallic potency that Orson Welles brought to the (albeit inferior) 1943 version and throughout he suggests little of a man carrying the burden of a tragic secret. Hence Jane does no more than flutter moth-like around Rochester's conventionally attractive flame. At least so it seemed to my eyes. Perhaps a female audience would consider that quite enough.

Fukunaga's strength as a director here is his restraint and this works positively in capturing Jane’s quietly dignified determination. But when it comes to the grand passion that was her creator’s recompense, we barely get above room temperature. And when we are talking vast Gothic piles, that is a just little too cool. After all, though Brontë could not conceive it in these terms, Jane was possessed of a rare lust for life. Notwithstanding, what is good about Jane Eyre 2011 is very good and perhaps this points the way for the next bold film-maker to try to get it finally right.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst