Jane Eyre – review


This Jane Eyre has effortlessly become my favorite Jane Eyre film.

Now if you’re a seasoned Jane Eyre fan, you’re probably familiar with PBS’ wonderful Jane Eyre miniseries  – of which I am an unabashed fan – so you’ll understand why I came to this film with high expectations and a general sense that I could be setting myself up for disappointment (much as I approached the Pride & Prejudice feature adaptation). Happily now, as then, I found a film I could adore on its own merits, faithful to the material yet distinct in its own right. Breathe easy, Jane Eyre fans – you’re going to be very happy.

This film is a very, very traditional retelling, and in many ways it’s exactly what you’d expect – except for Mia Wasikowska. Mia’s performance blew me away – she is utterly original, wholly mesmerizing, and given the caliber of this cast (Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judy Dench, and Sally Hawkins, to name a few), the fact that she stands out is unbelievable. The nuance she brought to the character – showing Jane’s emotions through her reserve, giving her an otherworldly quality, and a quiet, unshakable strength – I’m still slack-jawed. You’ve never seen this Jane before.

As for Rochester, Michael Fassbender turns in a wonderful performance, portraying Rochester’s intensity and vulnerability with allure – and yet I found myself wishing for perhaps a bit more originality from him. It was a very traditional Rochester, admirably executed, no question, but if you’re an Eyre enthusiast you might find him at times a bit too familiar. But Fassbender can brood with the best of them, no doubt about it, and the chemistry Mia and Michael have created between them is a strange and wonderful thing. They make for a fantastic pairing.

All around the cast was outstanding – Jamie Bell’s performance as St. John is particularly riveting – and this film is just lovely to behold. High production values, wonderful costuming, and fantastic cinematography abound. Cary Fukunaga (the director) delivers a beautifully realized Gothic atmosphere, a dark and unsettling ambiance that makes for a more menacing Thornfield Hall. He often contrasts that delicious darkness with Jane, making her the source of light and thus creating a wonderful visual representation of her morality. There is a lush quality to his camera work, and aside from one perhaps over-directed scene at the beginning – using a camera effect to blur the picture, in order to represent Jane’s state of mind: I understand in principle but found it annoying in practice – this is an utterly gorgeous film.

As for story, this movie hits all the expected plot points, even in its condensed state. The narrative structure felt a bit standard to me – again, it will likely feel familiar to Eyre fans – as the movie opens with Jane’s flight from Thornfield Hall, and then proceeds to tell the bulk of the story in flashbacks. But despite that sense of familiarity, there is an originality to this film – it just exists in its finer points, in dialogue choices and razor sharp scenes the cut to the quick of Jane Eyre. The scenes between Jane and Rochester, and Jane and St. John – this movie just nails them. You’ll feel the zing, I guarantee.

I have to say I did find the ending to be a touch abrupt – I would have liked a moment or more to linger – but all in all this is a satisfying and wonderful film.

Stunningly Gothic, with powerhouse performances and a leading lady that will blow you away – this is a Jane Eyre to enjoy, in every respect.

(And yes, I will definitely be buying the DVD…)