I am loath to confess this, but I really did not like this movie. On the one hand, the time seemed to fly by in that I was waiting for the actual story to begin and then what? 40 minutes already? On the other hand, I found everything so melodramatic and capricious that I couldn’t follow anyone’s emotional arc without being derailed constantly. And then it hit me: this is basically a Regency version of Twilight. Spoiler alert! Not unlike how Eragon is basically Star Wars, Bright Star structurally and thematically is freaking Twilight. He’s even pale and wan and she is superficial and sarcastic. I really didn’t want to do this, but I must.
Mum: Here we are in our new house in a small village.
Savage Friend: Leave us be. Oh, this is Keats.
Her: I like you and will pretend I am something I am not to get you to notice me.
Him: You should probably go away from me.
Her: Oh god I love you.
Him: OK, I love you but this can never be.
Her: Oh no! Woe is me!
Him: Do you still love me?
Her: I do I do!
Him: Ok then I love you back.
Her: Let’s kiss.
Him: Only kiss.
Her: Yes, of course.
Him: Just a reminder, this can never be.
Her: Mm-hm, certainly.
[Idyllic scenes of nature and longing looks and chaste finger touching]
Someone: You can’t be with him, he is a penniless poet(read:vampire) and will ruin your life.
Him: I feel ill. Here are some mixed messages for you.
Her: Your skin is like ice. I will follow you anywhere.
Someone else: Honestly, you can never be together.
Her: But he makes me feel afire.
Savage Friend: Oh, he’s gone now.
Her: Woe is me!
Now, the story is a sad one. I wanted to be sad, I wanted to be moved by Keats’ poetry and swept away by their love. I wanted them to be successful and get what they want. I admired Abbie Cornish’s acting and the strange get-ups her character Fanny would sew for herself. The gorgeous vocal music by Mark Bradshaw actually overshadowed the poetry being read beneath it — I wanted to twine myself in the notes as Keats’ immortal verse murmured around me. Keep your eyes peeled for Liam Neeson’s son from Love Actually and Hugh Grant’s sister from Notting Hill.
Paul Schneider transforms into Keats’ Scottish boor of a partner, Charles Brown, with unexplained hostility and wild possessiveness. We don’t learn much about Keats except for how he spent his time in this one house — his moves and moods are as intransient as the butterflies Fanny breeds in her room. The film appears to be flirting with the idea of superficiality and romance and wit and depth of character but never really explores any tack at length, except the agonies of their love.
Now, as films (and books) of this period go, the characters are actually very physical. None of this super-restrained drawing room nonsense — people dance and laugh and pat hands and hug acquaintances and flop onto furniture and basically act like real people. I enjoyed this, for much as I love this period in literature sometimes it is a little stultifying and it’s impossible to believe that humans could manage to be so completely against their natures for so much of the day.
Release date 9/18/09
Time in minutes 119
Director Jane Campion