Friday, February 19, 2010
"First love shines brightest"
"Have you seen the film Bright Star?" is a question that gets one of three responses:
"YES! I LOVE IT!"
"Yes! Oh, I really want to see that movie!"
"Never heard of it. What is it about?"
If you are in the first catagory - hurrah! I love you! Thank you for being my blog reader!
If you're in the second - oh you MUST see it as soon as possible! Did you know that it's on DVD now? And you can actually find it at Redbox?
And if you answered the third way - then this review is for you.
It is the early 19th century in England; the era of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens - an a certain young poet named John Keats. As the movie begins, Keats has just published his first book of poetry, a book which has been accepted with much criticism by the literary circles of the area.
Miss Fanny Brawne, a fashion-conscious young woman who delights in nothing so much as a well made ruffle, comes to vist. She finds herself intrigued by the mild-unassuming and slightly eccentric young artist. Though she knows nothing of poetry herself and finds it difficult to understand, she brings herself to ask Keats for poetry lessons in order that she might better appreciate his work. And thus a deep and passionate love relationship is begun that is forbidden by constraints that Jane Austen would have been proud of. Only this is no author's invention - this is a true story, translated to screen with the help of the many letters John sent Fanny over the course of their separated periods.
This is a beautiful film. What makes it work is a perfect marriage of technical perfection with a deeply emotional and gripping love story. The cinematography, costumes, acting, scenery, music all works together perfectly to draw the audience into the movie. Yet while intensely poetical, it remains real and true. Fanny is a strong-minded, independant young woman who steps off the screen as a person in her own right. Like Keats, she is her own individual. She designs clothes that are the height of fashion (and according to my little historical research, was supposedly an expert on historical costume as well) and is not afraid to stick up for herself - and for Keats. Furthermore, this very real woman is surrounded by a very real family. Her widowed mother and younger brother and sister support and love her (and she them) in a way that ties this story all the closer to reality.
Keats also is beautifully portrayed. He is not a classic dashing or even Byronic hero. He's intense, but gentle-mannered. He's an artist full of deep ideas and feelings - but he is practical and knows that his own happiness cannot be bought at the expense of a life of poverty for Fanny. He's tormented by the fact that his health prevents him from earning the fortune he needs to marry her, and fully acknowledges that he should let her go in order for her to marry a man who can provide her a secure life. Fanny's devotion, however, is absolute. She has faith in him and his art even when the rest of the world does not and sticks bravely by his side even when he falls into an illness that will - well, history and the movie will give you the answers.
Yes, it's a sad movie. And for some may strike too close to home for comfort. Yet though I found myself sympathizing in so many ways with the characters, I also found it refreshing to see that I'm not alone. Young people have dealt with this issues for hundreds of years, and they will continue to do so as long as the world lasts. Art or security? Love or money? Should we face the world together, or bow to expectation and practicality and walk separate roads? These are deeply relevant questions to myself and - I suspect - to many other young people these days as well.
The movie recieved a PG rating for "Themetic elements, some sensuality, brief language and incidental smoking." All of these issues are handed very tastfully. There are some beautiful kissing scenes that earned the "sensuality" caution, but they are so tender and sweet that they are a joy to watch rather than a saliva fest. The themetic elements refers to a subplot in which another poet impregnants a maid. However he ultimately lives up to his responsibilities, though there are indeed consequences. This film is perhaps best suited to a 15+ audience, but younger viewers ought to be able to enjoy it under parental or elder-sister supervision.
I adored this film. It is now on my list of top favorites. If you love a good love story, a historical bio-pic, or a beautiful artistic movie, then I'm almost certain you will as well.