Bright Star (PG)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/01/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 119 mins

Beautifully directed, superbly written and powerfully emotional drama with terrific performances from Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Jane Campion, Bright Star is set in 1819 and stars Ben Whishaw as 23-year-old poet John Keats, who lives in Hampstead with his friend Charles (Paul Schneider). When Keats meets Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), the 18-year-old daughter of his next door neighbour (Kerry Fox), their initial sparring soon blossoms into an intense love affair.

However, the path of true love never does run smooth and, despite the fact that no one really opposes their relationship, it quickly becomes clear that Fanny won't be permitted to marry Keats, because a penniless poet doesn't carry much weight when it comes to social status. Meanwhile, things are further complicated by Keats' deteriorating health.

The Good
Abbie Cornish is terrific as Fanny and there's palpable chemistry between her and Whishaw; their relationship is powerfully emotional as a result, whether in the beautifully tender scenes where Fanny looks after Keats or in the more overtly romantic scenes where they express their love for each other (the sense of repressed passion in the walking in the garden scenes is breathtakingly intense). Whishaw is equally good and there's strong support from both Kerry Fox (under-playing it beautifully as Mrs Brawne) and a scene-stealing Paul Schneider as the vaguely rogue-ish Charles.

The Great
Campion's script is excellent, making strong use of Keats' poetry and the love letters he wrote Fanny. It also movingly illustrates the ways in which their relationship enriched their lives, most notably in the scenes where Keats teaches Fanny how to read and appreciate poetry.

In addition, the film is beautifully shot, with Greig Fraser's lush cinematography making strong use of the flora and fauna, in a way that informs both the central relationship and Keats' poetry.

Worth seeing?
In short, Bright Star is a thoroughly engaging, beautifully directed and superbly acted romantic drama that packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 27/02/2020 00:17

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