Movie Review: Bright Star

Directed by Jane Campion, Bright Star lives within the tradition that a love story is only good if it has a tragic ending. In this case however it is based on a true story.

John Keats was one of the world’s most famous poets and he died at the age of 25. What he left behind was a legacy that every college student becomes obsessed with in university. Keats lived between 1795 and 1821. His most famous work was a poem called Bright Star to which the film is titled.

Ben Winshaw stars as Keats, a starving poet who is more concerned about his craft than love and life. He lives with his best friend Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider) who tries to keep Keats focused but during a bout of writer’s block that is next to impossible.

Ben Winshaw and Abbie Cornish
Ben Winshaw and Abbie Cornish

Keats and Brown have rented a summer home beside a family where their eldest daughter becomes curious about Keats. Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) is very curious and wants to know all about poetry. After she reads one of Keats’s poems she becomes obsessed with knowing all about him. She asks if Keats would teach her to write poetry. Keats agrees and she falls deeply in love with him.

Over the course of the movie, Fanny’s love of Keats intensifies and finally after a summer away from each other Keats reciprocates.

Directed by Jane Campion, who’s most famous film is still 1993’s The Piano, Bright Star has a beautiful love story at it’s core. But the beginning of the film and its eventual finale really drowned the film’s amazing middle. Quicker pace at the beginning and a more open ending probably would have made this film one of the best tragic love stories in the past five years.

The glue that holds this film together and kept me continuing with it was the performance of

Abbie Cornish. She is most famous for films like Candy and Stop Loss and for allegedly sleeping with Ryan Phillippe while he was still married to Reese Witherspoon.

This is an Oscar performance and besides her other claims to fame this could be the role that finally pushes Abbie Cornish out into the open. You see the longing, the passion, the beauty and torment all inside this girl with every look she gives Keats. The character’s shyness also is an amazing thing to watch.

Jane Campion with Abbie Cornish

When Campion made A Portrait of a Lady with Nicole Kidman, she cast all these rather odd looking actors around Kidman’s porcelain model type character. She takes the same approach here with Cornish. All the actors around Cornish aren’t nearly as attractive as Cornish and because of that casting choice the film surrounds Cornish even more.

Bright Star is an interesting film but really could have used another couple times through editing. This beautiful love story needed a more defined vision.

3.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

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