To get this out of the from the start, I hate the source material for this film and believe that Charlotte Bronte could not write a story to save her life, something that has made me very unpopular with female English lecturers. This is the latest adaptation of Bronte’s most famous work and stars Mia Wasikowska as the titular Jane Eyre and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.
If there is any point, because I am sure almost everyone knows it, the story details the life of Jane Eyre from unwanted orphan to Mrs Reed (Sally Hawkins, who can do no wrong) through her school days (under the always fantastic Simon McBurney) until she becomes governess to Rochester’s illegitimate ward before falling in love with the lord of the manor.
So, with my personal massive caveat, let’s move on to the film itself. It is pretty mediocre. One of the few really intriguing moments in the book is the story of the phantom mad women in the attic, the first of its kind and an inspiration for many horrors and melodramas after, and yet in this version there is one creepy/jump moment before the great dénouement. Bertha is an essential part of the novel, from a thematic point of view, as her appearances or references are at moments of Jane’s inner most turmoil, between her choice of heightened extreme foreign emotion, “the mad”, and the more reserved English countenance, “the sane”. The lack of continual Bertha moments means that the only real conflict of ideas is between the two central characters, which are played very well but are let down by poor dialogue.
The screenplay is written by Moira Buffini so the disjointed conversation is explained as this is the same writer of Tamara Drewe, last year’s clunky British comedy/Drama. There is one point early in the film when Jane complains about the constraints of her sex which is never really taken up strongly again, whilst there is no point where she rejects Rochester before her whole acceptance of him.
As far as the cast, they are the driving force behind the film. Fassbender and Wasikowska are terrific yet it is some of the supporting cast that really enhance the film, Judy Dench and Jamie Bell being the two proponents. It is incredibly picturesque, wide Northern and Anglian moors creating a barren landscape in comparison to the enclosed, flowered safety of Thornfield.
In the end, the problems are pretty much in the way they decided to promote the romance rather than the identity of the book, which feels to me like a point in futility as all tension is removed. It is not bad, just a lot shallower than it should have been.