Bright Star (2009)

91.

★★★★

Directed by: Jane Campion
Written by: Jane Campion
Starring: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw and Paul Schneider

A Romantic poet’s romance

The love story between Romantic poet John Keats and bright, talented Fanny Brawne is one that could have easily fallen into the clutches of predictable sentimentality.  But when portrayed through the eyes and words of Oscar Award winning writer-director Jane Campion in Bright Star, this beautifully visualized romance is more than a poetry reading.

At the age of 23, John Keats (Whishaw) believes himself to be a failure. Without any riches or fame to his name, Keats lives and works with the loud and brash Charles Brown (Schneider), struggling to earn a decent wage through his writing. Next door to Brown is Fanny Brawne – a budding clothing designer who is unafraid to wear her own fashion statements, and make some statements on Keats’ own work.

While the setup for romance feels predictable, along with the film’s concluding tragedy, Bright Star is stellar in its visual representation of a love that is fragile, all-consuming, and unrestrained. Through the detail embroidered into the costuming, and the visual landscapes that act as more than a backdrop, Bright Star gives Keats’ romance the cinematic poetry it deserves. Coupled with performances that are moving and rich in their subtlety and stillness, Bright Star lifts a potentially straightforward romance into one that reaches for greater significance through its visual language.

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