Film review – Bright Star (2009)

John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish)

Fanny Brawne was the muse and great love of the English romantic poet John Keats. An outspoken and assertive woman, she possessed a love for expressive fashion and the confidence to speak openly about her initially ambivalent feelings towards poetry. Keats and Brawne’s relationship, which began in 1818, is gracefully depicted in Bright Star from Brawne’s perspective and it takes the audience into a world where true love must contend with the economic and social restraints of the time. Writer/director Jane Campion (The Portrait of a Lady, The Piano) has created an intoxicating and intelligent romance film with strong fleshed-out characters that defy all the clichés and pulpy attributes that usually plague this genre.

Bright Star is visually gorgeous with Greig Fraser’s (The Boys Are Back, Last Ride) sublime cinematography filling the screen with seductive colour and light. However, the film’s true power lies in the performance between Abbie Cornish (Somersault, Stop-Loss) as Fanny Brawne and Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, I’m Not There) as John Keats. The pair have a genuine chemistry and the joy of Bright Star is watching their obvious attraction develop into a love that is both tender and immensely charged.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 344, 2009

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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