Bright Star is the rarest of the rare. It's a period piece romantic drama set in the early 1800's that is absolutely magnificent. I'm kind of a cynic when it comes to those types of movies. I am a film lover and I try to give every movie I see a fair chance, but let's face it. I'm a guy. These flicks do not appeal to me, but there's something about Bright Star and the way it portrays love that grabs a hold of the heart and doesn't let go.
Based on the last few years of poet John Keats' life, the film focuses on the relationship between Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his object of affection, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Similar to many other romantic tragedies, the two are unable to be together despite their growing desires for one another. The difference in this movie is that it isn't quarreling families or evil parents attempting to subdue their love. This time, it is Keats who restrains himself, or at least tries to, because he doesn't know how he will provide for her. He is a struggling poet, releasing many books, but selling none. He can't afford to put a bonnet on her head, much less provide a habitable home for her and any possible children.
The irony is that his poetry is what is keeping him from truly being with her because he is unable to produce money from it, but it is her that gives him the inspiration to keep writing. His thoughts don't begin to truly spill out with beautiful fervor until he finds himself happily in the arms of Fanny, thoughts that include a number of letters he writes her while he is away that are arguably filled with more heart, soul and passion than his actual poems.
An issue I have with many British films, especially ones set deep in the past such as this one, is that I don't always understand what everybody is saying. Some lines of dialogue go over my head and I will sometimes find myself lost, but love is universal and needs no words. That is where this movie succeeds the most, knowing when to tone it down and let the visuals do the talking. In fact, the most touching moments in the entire film were the silent ones where you could see and feel the love that existed between the two without having to hear it.
The direction, helmed by Jane Campion, is understated, yet elegant and delivers a few gorgeous shots that are of the utmost importance to the success of the movie, including a wonderful side profile of Fanny as the wind slowly and gracefully blows her window curtains towards her. But the real bright star (yuk yuk) of the movie is Abbie Cornish. She has garnered a lot of buzz for her portrayal of Fanny and is being called on by the film community to be nominated for an Oscar. She deserves it. She is captivating, especially in a late scene where she spills her guts out in an emotional breakdown, falling to her knees and crying to the heavens, forced to deal with an unimaginable pain that most of us will never experience. Her spellbinding performance, along with the great Ben Whishaw, cements the film as a terrific romantic tale.
Knowing when it has something good going, Bright Star ends with Keats reading one of his poems over the credits, giving the viewer something to ponder over as they walk out of the theater. It may be the only time in history where a film has kept my attention until the final name had come and gone, leaving me staring at a blank screen, mesmerized by the beautiful words I had just heard. Bright Star is delightful and a true testament to the power of love.
Bright Star receives 4/5