out of Five
Running time: 120
Impressively directed, beautifully shot and superbly written, this is a hugely enjoyable, achingly romantic period drama with terrific performances from Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.
What's it all about?
Directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), Jane Eyre is based on the classic novel by Charlotte Bronte and set in 19th century England. Imposing a bookending flashback structure, the film opens with a distressed Jane (Mia Wasikowska) stumbling across the moors and collapsing with exhaustion, whereupon she's taken in by kindly St John Rivers (Jamie Bell) and his two sisters (Holliday Grainger and Tamzin Merchant).
The story then flashes back to reveal what brought Jane to this state, beginning with her orphaned childhood (Amelia Clarkson plays the young Jane) and a heartbreaking experience at the gloomy boarding school she's sent to by her mean-spirited aunt (Sally Hawkins). When she turns 18 (now played by Wasikowska), Jane takes a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall where she begins to fall for her tempestuous employer Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender), only to discover that he's harbouring a terrible secret.
Mia Wasikowska is wonderful as Jane, delivering a thoughtful, emotionally engaging performance that lets us keenly feel her inner life and the frustrating constraints of her social position. She also has palpable chemistry with Michael Fassbender, who's on typically superb form as the tortured Rochester; as a result, their relationship is both believable and achingly romantic.
In addition, there's strong support from a superb cast that includes Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Imogen Poots (as a potential rival for Rochester's affections) and Judi Dench, who underplays to strong effect as Mrs Fairfax, the housekeeper at Thornfield Hall. On top of that, Moira Buffini's excellent script crackles with great dialogue and ensures that the story is utterly gripping even if you already know the plot.
The film is also stunningly shot, courtesy of cinematographer Adriano Goldman, who gets terrific use out of the various starkly beautiful locations. Similarly, the lighting in the film is extraordinary; quite apart from anything else, this is the most beautifully lit film you'll see all year.
Thoroughly absorbing and powerfully emotional, this is a treat from start to finish, thanks to a great script, terrific performances and impeccable, Oscar-worthy direction from Cary Fukunaga. Highly recommended.