Star rating - 9/10
It’s a very difficult challenge to add something new to such a beloved classic as ‘Jane Eyre’, which has been read and filmed so often that most of the audience will be anticipating every tiny detail. And of course a feature film length version cannot possibly include every detail from the wonderful Charlotte Brontë novel. But director Cary Fukunaga, whose last film ‘Sin Nombre’ was a world away from this classic romance, and screen writer Moira Buffini, have certainly more than done justice to the original story.
There is a good twist in the sequencing, as the film opens with a scene when Jane has fled from her employer and would be husband, Mr Rochester at Thornfield Hall, and arrives at the Rivers’ cottage for refuge from the storm – both literally and metaphorically. It then slips back to her unhappy childhood at the hands of her cruel Aunt Reid, and then at the equally brutal Lowood School.
But this story is all about the two central performances, and here we have two stellar ones. Michael Fassbender is wonderful as the taciturn, broody, and yet, in this version at any rate, irresistibly handsome Mr. Edward Rochester, who is concealing a dark secret in the attic. He is possibly a shade too good looking for Mr Rochester, who is after all, not supposed to be a handsome man, but far be it from me to complain. Mia Wasikowska is perfect as the intelligent, principled, and independent minded governess Jane. She was good in a supporting role as one of the children in last year’s ‘The Kids are Alright’, but really comes into her own here, perfect English accent and all. The on screen chemistry between the two is subtle and understated, as in the book, until it builds to a crescendo that neither can ignore.
Judi Dench is of course an absolute pleasure to watch, as always, as Mrs Fairfax the faithful housekeeper. The beautiful Derbyshire scenery is shown of to full effect with some wonderful cinematography. This version will undoubtedly have its critics, but for me it is outstanding, and a great showcase for both Fassbender and Wasikowska as thoughts will inevitably be turning to the crazy annual Oscar bun fight. But the real pearl is the brilliant, romantic, and Gothic tale by Charlotte Brontë. As we eagerly wait for Andrea Arnold to offer up more in the same vein with her take on Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, let the Brontëmania begin...