It's 1818 in Hampstead Village on the outskirts of London. Poet Charles Brown lives in one half of a house, the Dilkes family who live in the other half. Through their association with the Dilkes, the fatherless Brawne family know Mr. Brown. The Brawne's eldest daughter, Fanny Brawne, and Mr. Brown don't like each other. She thinks he's arrogant and rude, and he feels that she is pretentious, knowing only how to sew (admittedly well as she makes all her own fashionable clothes), flirt and give opinions on subjects about which she knows nothing. Insecure struggling poet John Keats comes to live with his friend, Mr. Brown. Miss Brawne and Mr. Keats have a mutual attraction to each other, a relationship which however is slow to develop in part since Mr. Brown does whatever he can to keep the two apart. But other obstacles face the couple, including their eventual overwhelming passion for each other clouding their view of what the other does, Mr. Keats' struggling career which offers him ... Written by
I just had the pleasure of seeing Bright Star tonight. I was hoping it would be as good as the trailer, and it was. The trailer is not misleading in this sense but a pretty good representation of the movie.
Most of the negative reviews I've read for this have something to do with how the film is "little" or "slow." Rarely, they comment that it's "melodramatic." Which it's NOT by any means. It is not mawkishly sentimental at all. It's not epic, it is small in a way, and there's never any seizing moment of action. That doesn't make it boring; it's engaging throughout.
This is different from any period film I've ever seen, or really, imagined. It's not like typical period pieces in trying to wow you with its aesthetic recreation of the time, it's not so much about the visual splendor, though it looks very lovely and is thoroughly convincing as a representation of that period. It's visually quite different from other period pieces, it has a more realistic and kind of earthy look rather than pastel-colored and with a glow around everything. There are slums and less-than-palatial places. This isn't Pride and Prejudice. Neither does it have sort of a broad, sweeping narrative. At heart it's a deep love story about famed poet John Keats and his love and muse, Franny Brawne, whose relationship was cut short by a tragic death. It delves deeply into the small details of their courtship, and is pretty involved psychologically.
These people are portrayed realistically. Even the more minor characters, they all seem to be real people, with actual personalities, rather than caricatures or types of stuffy Regency people who are preoccupied with propriety and good marriage matches. Fanny's mother is nice, the main issue with her marrying Keats is that he literally can't support her, and the people they know aren't mindlessly concerned about it. They actually have FUN and do more interesting things than stand at ballroom dances and sit at dinner. Who would have thought people in a Regency period movie could actually climb trees, walk in the mud, or do quirky, whimsical things? Their ease and naturalness and relative candor in moving around, interacting with, and talking to each other was refreshing and definitely different from the idea you generally get. And this is the first period piece I've ever, ever seen where anyone has actually picked up and held their pet cat and treated it like you would your pet. You can actually hear it purring, it's a real part of their surroundings. I liked that cat, it was cute.
The dialogue was superb. It wasn't this sloppy, general, or comical/absurd stuff. It was precise, clear, charged with personality, and often beautiful. When you hear the conversations between Fanny and John, it's brilliant, real, and a pleasure. I have never seen such intelligence, subtlety, or elegance in a movie in this way. To hear Fanny respond to something John said, even just a word, as if she were actually thinking about it, as would happen in real life, as if she were an intelligent, feeling, witty person, was so nice. And so DIFFERENT. It's a little hard to explain if you haven't seen it. Suffice it to say, the dialogue is delicate and nuanced. They are articulate but not pretentious, they are sensitive, individual people - not unreal types who don't pick up on details. And it being about Keats, the characters have a lot of literary intelligence. You will enjoy the poetry in the movie.
The acting was great. Keats - I would probably fall in love with him, too. He seems like such a sensitive, romantic, and intelligent guy. Ben Whishaw was perfect for him. And Abbie Cornish as Fanny is wonderful - while not extravagantly gorgeous exactly, her face has such clear features that she has an extraordinary appeal. She is a very striking character, and deeply feeling about Keats. You get a real sense of love, real responses to grief instead of just a pretty swoon. It was a real romance - their tender kiss was beautiful, the things they said to each other, and the things they felt.
This movie is one of those rare films that are almost perfect to me. That doesn't make it my favorite movie, but it means I didn't find much wrong with it. The emotion isn't overwhelming, it's not exactly visceral, but it's moving and penetrating, it has its own style. It's NOT sappy or conventional. The extreme intelligence, realism, and emotional depth of this movie truly set it apart from all others. I heard a review say something like about how it's just about "old British speech and mannerisms," which couldn't be farther from the truth. It is NOT driven by quaintness or generic period speech like other period films. The dialogue is not stiff, pretentious, or artificial, though it's accurate. Sweet, moving, and intelligent, Bright Star has rare depth. It's definitely like no other movie. You should go see it if you think you'd be into it at all, by any stretch. You might not like it - it is rather "slow," but very interesting, at least for me - but it would be a thick or insensitive person indeed who couldn't appreciate it in some way. It's like how Keats described Fanny
"the brightest, most delicate thing."
My favorite quotes are:
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness."
"I almost wish we were butterflies, and lived but three summer days. Three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain."
There are many others, much of Keats' letters to Fanny is so beautiful, but I can't remember them off the top of my head. These are two that appear in the trailer.
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