After being orphaned as a child, Jane (Clarkson) is sent by her selfish aunt (Hawkins) to a grisly boarding school where she's falsely scorned as a liar.
When she leaves at age 18 (now Wasikowska), she works as a governess for the ward (Moore) of the mercurial Rochester (Fassbender), finding friendship with the housekeeper (Dench) and, surprisingly, romance with Rochester. Alas, this doesn't go well, and when she flees she finds solace with rural parson Rivers (Bell) and his sisters (Grainger and Merchant). Surely she deserves some good news.
The film frames Jane's story with her flight from Rochester's house and rescue by Rivers, then we see her childhood and experiences with Rochester as flashbacks. This helps us understand her emotional state, letting us live through her "tale of woe" without wallowing in it. We understand from the start that the misery heaped on Jane is unfair, and also that she is strong enough to get through it. So we never lose hope that things will somehow turn around, even as her life gets increasingly bleak.
Wasikowska gives a visceral, layered performance that subtly expresses Jane's thoughts and feelings while maintaining the decorum of the 19th century setting. And her interaction with Fassbender is terrific, as we see Jane spark Rochester's interest and watch them soften to each other before his dark secret rips things apart. Meanwhile, Dench and Bell add delicate touches to their characters, giving us further insight into Jane's personality.
Even as he underplays the story's pivotal moment, director Fukunaga creates a film that's sensuous and sometimes terrifying. While Adriano Goldman's lush cinematography and Dario Marianelli's unobtrusive score add to the richness of the experience. Indeed, this film's internalised approach and sumptuous style are reminiscent of Polanski's near-perfect version of Tess. And telling such a familiar story in a way that sweeps us off our feet is no mean feat.
Run time: 120 mins
In Theaters: Friday 9th September 2011
Box Office USA: $11.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $11M
Distributed by: Focus Features
Production compaines: BBC Films, Ruby Films
Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 124 Rotten: 23
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Producer: Alison Owen, Paul Trijbits
Screenwriter: Moira Buffini
Starring: Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre, Jamie Bell as St. John, Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester, Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, Su Elliott as Hannah, Holliday Grainger as Diana Rivers, Tamzin Merchant as Mary Rivers, Amelia Clarkson as Young Jane, Craig Roberts as John Reed, Sally Hawkins as Mrs. Reed, Lizzie Hopley as Miss Abbot, Jayne Wisener as Bessie, Freya Wilson as Eliza Reed, Emily Haigh as Georgiana Reed, Simon McBurney as Mr. Brocklehurst, Sandy McDade as Miss Scatcherd, Freya Parks as Helen Burns, Edwina Elek as Miss Temple, Ewart James Walters as John, Georgia Bourke as Leah, Sally Reeve as Martha, Romy Settbon Moore as Adèle Varens, Eglantine Rembauville-Nicolle as Sophie, Rosie Cavaliero as Grace Poole, Angela Curran as Undercook, Imogen Poots as Blanche Ingram, Sophie Ward as Lady Ingram, Joe Van Moyland as Lord Ingram, Hayden Phillips as Colonel Dent, Laura Phillips as Mrs. Dent, Harry Lloyd as Richard Mason, Ned Dennehy as Dr. Carter, Joseph Kloska as Clergyman Wood, Ben Roberts as Briggs, Valentina Cervi as Bertha Mason
Also starring: Alison Owen
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