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Abbie Cornish
Ben Whishaw
Paul Schneider
Kerry Fox.
Jane Campion.
Jane Campion.
Running Time
119 minutes

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Bright Star
Romantic poet falls in love, writes romantic poetry

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London, 1818. Fledgling poet John Keats (Whishaw) meets neighbour Fanny Brawne and the pair embark on an intense love affair, to the irritation of Keats’ best friend (Schneider). As he schemes to split them up, a more silent enemy will prove the bigger threat to the young couple’s relationship.

Bright Star
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Writer-director Jane Campion’s most famous film remains 1993’s Oscar-winning The Piano, the storyof a woman unable to speak, trapped in a silent world until an unlikely paramour unlocks her emotionally and erotically. In Bright Star, Campion takes as her subject John Keats (Ben Whishaw), one of the most famous wordsmiths of all time. Ostensibly her subjects couldn’t be more different. Yet for all his way with words, once again it takes an unlikely paramour — flirty, feisty seamstress Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) — to lay bare the passion behind the poet.

Campion has taken as her focus the last two years of 23 year-old Keats’ life, as he teetered on the edge of literary fame. Lodging in London with the rambunctious Charles Brown (an excellent Paul Schneider), his buxom, rosy-cheeked neighbour, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish), soon catches his (and Brown’s) eye, not least as she isn’t afraid to speak her mind over his poems. Or, indeed, anything. It’s a fun, familiar set-up, all too soon blighted by Keats’ obvious illness, our Romantic hero conspicuously succumbing to something nasty even as, thanks to Brawne, his life is filling with life and love. Campion seems to suggest that if sheer force of personality were enough, TB would be no match for Fanny.

This might be the turn of the 19th century, but Campion’s is no creaky costume drama — indeed, Fanny’s bosoms are barely restrained by her succession of self-designed frocks. There’s a wonderful lightness to the central pair’s relationship, Cornish all fun vivacity, Whishaw all pale skin, sharp angles and haunted eyes — he could give tips to Keats himself on how to look Keatsian — but nevertheless with an impishness around Fanny that gives welcome foil to his usual intensity.

Yet as another great poet once wrote, the course of true love never did run smooth. Just as this simple passion finds its voice, a different note begins to sound. Campion’s pacing is immaculate, and her mixing of light and shade is so subtly effective that, as the tale heads towards inevitable tragedy, it’s impossible not to be left both quietly devastated and thoroughly uplifted.

Campion has created another resonant paean to love’s pain and joy, and gives new life to John Keats, too often now associated with dusty school books.

Reviewed by Liz Beardsworth

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Bright Star
Empire Star Rating

RE: Bright Star

This is getting  a bump from me cause it's a gem of a film and I spent last week in Rome.  And on the last day I went to the Protestant Cemetry below the Aventine and got my photo taken by Keat's grave. I was also sitting on the Spanish Steps besides the house he lived on attached to the Steps. So yeah, Campion's film is disregarded almost.  (A very arsey 3-star review for the dvd btw).  What does it take for a perfectly orchestrated, unpretentious, ... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 03:21, 09 April 2010 | Report This Post

Bright Star indeed

Moving, loving, sad, inspiring. The best love story of the year. Cornish is wonderful, where was her Oscar nod? Campion delivers again. Where was the critical and Oscar love for this darling little gem? ... More

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Posted by lynnshep at 22:40, 29 March 2010 | Report This Post

A Slow Moving Period Drama.

Bright Star won't appeal to everyone, it is slow to start off and takes a good deal of time for the couple to be together. But it's a moving, beautiful and very emotional period drama. The main stars, Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish, protray their characters with passion with their doomed affair. When it's very near the end, you actully feel your heart breaking of the tradgey that affects not just the couple but the people around them. It has some amazing costumes and stunning scenery, has that fe... More

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Posted by joanna likes films at 09:48, 21 March 2010 | Report This Post

RE: Back on track

I must confess Jane Campion does little for me (didn't particularly like the Piano, or the short she did when she was just starting out) but given the positive reviews and the subject matter I think I'll make the effort to see it next week. Having said that, Paul Sneider's (or whatever his name is) Scottish accent sounds awful in the trailer... ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 10:36, 13 November 2009 | Report This Post

Back on track

After her joke of a film, In the Cut anyone???? Jane Campion is back to what she knows best, Simple yet elegant story telling, Beautiful imagery, modest budget, and a Languid pace, which captures the essence of romance and the doomed love story between our vivacious lead and the penniless poet. Campion portrayed a beautfully detailed era, the awkward and tentative flirting in the beginning, the fleeting moments of happiness, and the doomed end, where grieving can become too much to bear, A rivet... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by omarx at 00:25, 12 November 2009 | Report This Post

RE: Bright Star

Beautifully filmed.  Brilliantly acted.  It might come on a little detached to be to everyone's tastes but I loved its austerity which assured this story-on-tramlines never segued into genre trappings.   Another definite recommendation from this corner.  ... More

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Posted by demoncleaner at 21:58, 11 November 2009 | Report This Post

Super (Nova)!!!!

The performances are excellent, i hope Abbie Cornish gets some sort of nomination for her efforts. I loved the music, both bleak and evocative to the atmosphere of the film. It's both dreamy and grimey in terms of it's look,which I love. There are several moments of aloofness given in the film that whisked me away. This has to be one of the most beautiful films of the decade in my opinion without a doubt. Certainly up there with "New World" by Terrence Malick. Period films aren't... More

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Posted by Rich Empire at 22:53, 10 November 2009 | Report This Post

Bright Star

In many ways Bright Star is a typical story about a doomed love affair. However Jane Campion has created something that emotionally involves its audience due to a well written script and some brilliant cinematography. Bright Star is a poetic vision of love and tragedy and may take two viewings to fully absorb, but its worth every minute. ... More

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Posted by Soprano168 at 20:55, 09 November 2009 | Report This Post

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