Friday, 6 November 2009

LEEDS FILM FEST REVIEW: Bright Star


One of the perks to volunteering is all the free tickets we seem to be getting! And I was VERY lucky to be offered two free tickets to the VIP LIFF opening night film of Bright Star.  I’ve been a John Keats fan since studying him for A Level several (eeeek!) years ago, and have been looking forward to seeing this film for ages. I was going to get tickets anyway,  so this was all a bonus! I’m also a big fan of Abbie Cornish ever since seeing Somersault earlier this year and I hope the release of this film gets her a bit more promo and recognition.

And the film is exactly like a John Keats poem – beautiful, romantic, affecting and manages to be both magical and otherworldly without appearing unreal. And I was quite choked up for a while after it finished, too!

The relationship between Fanny and John is so well developed and you’re sucked into a moving and inspirational love story before you know it. Fanny is completely different at the start of the film – independent, strong willed, sarcastic and cynical, and to watch her change as she begins to have feelings for another person, it is genuine and delicate, and makes everything inside you soar. This film is perfect for showing just how enhancing and transformative love can be. Fanny almost becomes a female embodiment of Keats herself – love becomes a sickness and a drug (hemlock! hemlock!). The beauty of Jane Campion’s directing is that everything is so slight and ethereal you are never left thinking that these two people are dangerous for one another, or that their relationship is fake or excessive. The ending, even though you know it’s coming, is like having your heart squeezed like a sponge. It is truly upsetting and agonising and will stay with you for long after.

The two leads are flawless. I love Abbie Cornish, and with Fanny she has created a female protagonist who is the stronger of the couple – she is smart, loving and brave and I really, really hope she gets a lot of good reviews from this, and is recognised for expertly playing such tormented female roles (such as she does in Somersault). This role is also the making of Ben Whishaw as well – I haven’t seen Criminal Justice which he was readily applauded for, but here he is just wonderful as John Keats – fragile, innocent, wistful – just adorable! A confused but very brilliant man.

The rest of the cast are delightful too – particularly Fanny’s siblings (oh hello little boy from Love Actually, yes I did know that face!) and the way they say very little, yet their devotion to their sister and their love for John, and Fanny and John, is more than evident.  There’s a darling little scene where Fanny and John are following Toots back to the house and everytime she turns around they freeze frame.

Another thing I loved – other than giggling stupidly whenever long quotes of Eve of St Agnes or Nightingale come up! – was the use of the countryside and nature in the film – particularly the butterflies in the bedroom, and where they share their first kiss in the wildflowers. It’s all so perfectly realised and really adds to the overall tone and feel of the film which is understated, natural and oh so very British.

It’s a gorgeous, tender, sensuous film and I urge anyone who has loved, is in love, or wants to experience the pure unadultered thing to treat yourselves to this little wonder.

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