This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 4th September 2011
Adding to umpteen television and film adaptations of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, this latest rendition (by a clearly talented but largely unknown young director, Cary Fukunaga) delivers a beautifully photographed, affecting story of pain and mistreatment giving way to true love.
Rising star Michael Fassbender (brilliant in every role, from Hunger to the latest X-Men movie) is the mercurial Rochester, whose brusque appraisal of his young governess elicits a sharp-witted response that establishes an electric rapport between the two. Australian Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) has the perfect wan face to play the titular self-contained, emotionally bruised orphan with a tale of woe she refuses to tell. There is strong support from Judi Dench and a terrific Jamie Bell – so mature and nuanced in his performance of St John Rivers that it’s surely time to forget about Billy Elliot.
The core cast handles the archaic dialogue with ease, enabling us to enter freely into the bleak world where a teacher speaks of “rooting out the wickedness in this small, ungrateful plant”. Inevitably, as with many stories of this era, the thwarted romance includes misunderstandings and tortured longings, and some may feel the lessened age-gap between the leads is not entirely faithful, but Jane Eyre is still a satisfying watch.