Bright Star is a recent movie about the love story between the nineteenth century Romantic poet John Keats, and his neighbor, Fanny Brawne. It stars Abbie Cornish as Fanny and Ben Wishaw as Keats.
John Keats and Fanny Brawne first meet in 1818, when he moves to the neighborhood to nurse his ill brother and compose poetry with his friend Mr. Charles Brown. Keats is an up and coming poet and Fanny is curious about him and makes it her business to meet him and study his character. At first John Keats finds Fanny a saucy mix and Brown cautions Keats that Fanny is only interested in flirting and fashion, but soon Keats is drawn to Fanny's compassion and interest in learning poetry. The two soon become infatuated with each other until John's poor health tears them apart.
This love story is about star-crossed lovers, rather like Romeo and Juliet, who get caught up in romance despite forces that keep them apart (in this case, lack of money and fatal illness). The passion and intensity of their relationship rivals Romeo and Juliet. Fanny is bright, curious and passionate. Fanny comes across as both charming and annoying as she gets swept up by her passions, which run the full gamut from love to loss. She is played brilliantly by Abby Cornish who is wonderfully bouncy and flirty as as well as deeply emotional. Fanny's emotional outbursts are acted with incredible feeling and intensity but I just didn't find Fanny a sympathetic character. She was way too obsessed with Keats and their romance and whenever he wasn't around, she had a nervous breakdown and fell into a decline. She is not, however, a stalker, as one reviewer labeled her, but she does act like a typical teenage girl in the throes of her first crush. If you can empathize with that, then you will probably like Fanny. I thought she was silly and over-the-top dramatic.
John Keats is quiet and brooding and falls in love with Fanny's compassion and enthusiasm. Ben Wishaw's Keats is dark, good looking and brooding and his romantic poetry is enough to make any 19th century heroine (or wannabe) swoon, but as with Fanny, I found him obsessive and emotional and didn't really feel anything for him until the end. Wishaw's Keats is also too healthy-looking for a man who is suffering from Consumption. Wishaw really shines at the end of the movie when the young lovers must be separated for the sake of John's health and John knows this is the final goodbye. The scene is sweetly romantic and heartbreaking at the same time.
Keats is a moral man but his behavior pushes the limits propriety for those days though he's aided by Fanny who is so in love, she ignores the world around her in favor of her love.
I just couldn't get really carried away by the love story. I didn't understand why Fanny was attracted to Keats in the first place nor why he was so enraptured by her. The story is a little lacking in my opinion, but I've grown cynical in my old age. When I was a teenager, I probably would have loved this movie.
Visually, this movie is wonderful. The filming location makes the perfect 19th century village and the spring and summer scenery is breathtaking. The domestic scenes are also very natural and normal and provide the viewer with a glimpse into the domestic life of country families. I also loved one scene involving butterflies, which was beautiful.
I loved the costumes, especially those belonging to Fanny, who was an amateur fashion designer. She designed and made all of her own clothes and they reflect her personality.
Overall, I was slightly disappointed that I didn't like the movie more. I watched it twice to try to form a second opinion but my first opinion remained. The trailers show the best parts of the film. I would recommend the movie for 19th century fanatics and die-hard romantics.
Learn more about the movie at the Official U.S. Site or the Better U.K. site
BRIGHT STAR, WOULD I WERE STEDFAST
By John KeatsBright star, would I were stedfast as thou art---
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors---
No---yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever---or else swoon in death.