Bright Star

4 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars
(28user reviews)

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
Click here to read a interview with director Campion

Not a great deal happens in ‘Bright Star’, Jane Campion’s breezy and beautiful film about the nineteenth-century British poet John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw). The New Zealand director’s film is light in the most attractive and dreamy of ways: it floats on its own, intimately explored love story and refuses to be weighed down by either period fixtures and fittings or the later reputation of Keats, whose final years and stalling romance with his neighbour Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) Campion handles with a smartness and sensitivity that feel teasingly throwaway.

That’s not to say there’s anything slapdash about Campion’s story of how Keats moved in next door to the fatherless Brawne family and fell in love with slightly younger Fanny, tentatively courting her and writing her wonderfully honest letters but fatally kept at a distance by poverty and illness. In fact, for this critic, it’s the exquisite detail of the whole affair, coupled with the aerating winds of modernity that blow gently through the film, rather than the emotional pull of the doomed love affair at its heart, that are the film’s real success. (Others, I must say, differ on this point, judging by the sobs and sniffles to my left and right at the London Film Festival screening of the film.)

A combination of unstuffy dialogue, wise casting, unselfconscious performances and sensuous but never pretty photography makes Campion’s version of the nineteenth century feel current but not anachronistic.

Campion came to Keats’s story, which she shot in Britain last year, after a four-year sabbatical from filmmaking – and it shows, especially following the dark, oppressive atmosphere of ‘In the Cut’, one of her least successful films. Her telling of this biographical tale, inspired by Andrew Motion’s biography, feels as if it’s told by someone with much knowledge but little weight on their shoulders. It’s a feeling one gets from the performances too, especially from Cornish and Whishaw, who both, at times, threaten to float off on a cloud of their characters’ distraction. It’s down to the side players, especially an earthy Kerry Fox as Fanny’s mother and a boisterous Paul Schneider as Keats’s friend and protector Charles Brown, to give the film some vim away from the fog of love. Whishaw, with his troubled air and vulnerable features, is perhaps better as a Romantic lead than a romantic one, and if the film has one crucial failing, it’s that there’s a crucial spark missing between Whishaw and Cornish.

Campion treats Keats’s talent as a given and not a cue for creaky explorations of inspiration and artistic otherness. She weaves his poetry into the drama, calling for it to be spoken naturally and not at all awkwardly by her characters. It’s not easy to follow verse this way, but it certainly inspires the viewer to head straight from the cinema to the bookshop.

Click here to read a interview with director Campion



Release details

Cast and crew

Jane Campion
Jane Campion
Abbie Cornish
Thomas Sangster
Paul Schneider
Ben Hecht
Kerry Fox

Users say (28)

2 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

2.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:6
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:2
  • 1 star:15
2 people listening

Film protrayals of creative geniuses are seldom convincing, so I was not keen on seeing this one. However, I found it well acted, unpretentious, and full of telling detail. Both I and my partner found it very moving. Everything good I can say about it as a film, your critic has already said. But I disagree with him and many people's complaints that it was not passionate enough. Fanny did her best to carry the romance forward against the warning advice from her worried mother. Keats did his best despite being broke and thus ineligible - and still recovering from nursing his beloved brother to a ghastly death from TB. And he knew that he had a weak chest himself and by his selflessness had vastly increased the risk of dying from TB himself. Those extracts from his poems were partly chosen to show his continual pondering about death during what must have been a traumatic period for him. Hardly the carefree passionate lover desperate to get into her knickers! Do .people think he should have copied his friend Brown and got his girlfriend pregnant? Keats is one of the few Eng Lit giants who seens to have been respected by everyone and loved by his many friends. (They were also broke, but they managed to collect enough money to send him to Italy.) Keats was a man of honour. He knew his health was weak and he had no money. What could he offer her except his devotion, and his innermost thoughts and feelings? And that's what he did.

This film was by far the worst film I have watched. It was completly lacking in passion, and was so very, very boring. Absolutely terrible and a total waste of time and money to make and view. Please don't subject us to anymore of this over rated rubbish. Highly disappointing to say the very least.

One of the most boring films I have ever seen!!There was zero chemistry between the leadsThe director tried to compensate with the beauttiful scenery and costumes but even that wasnt When compared to great classics such as Pride and Prejudice,Sense and Sensibillty Cranford North and South It doesnt come even closeAll of the leading actors in these films and series had one thing in common Passsion!!! The best adjective to describe Jane Campion`s film is Dull utterly Dull,and unconvincing

I can't believe this film is only rated 2* on average by users on your site. I guess a public desensitised by films full of 3D speclial effects and gratuitous sex has lost the ability to appreciate films of this sensitivity and subtlety. Great performances by the leads, particularly Abbie Cornish - Ben Whishaw more understated but I think this was necessary given the hyperbole associated with the Keats legend. Beatiful photography and a real sense of the materiality of time and space to match Keats poetry - the film tells the Keats story through the eyes of the strong but much maligned Fanny - emphasising the sense of early fulfillment rather than tragedy in Keats's short life - although it was still definitely a 3 handkerchief job. My only criticism is that it could have moved a bit faster at times and perhaps could have told more about Fanny's later life how her reputation was later blackened by Brown, considering how much he appears in the film.

total waste of space and funding for a vapid torture which tests your fortitude like a vacuous black hole

Good things in this film: Abbie Cornish's performance, not a minx, as perhaps she is supposed to be partly represented, but a contained openness sustained throughout the film, which makes her continually compelling to watch. Many, many shots which are beautiful without just being vapidly pretty. A flow of shots which leave no doubt you are in the hands of a real film-maker. A woman's sensibility that is not just in the sympathy shown to the female characters, but in small incidental details - the repeated part played by the cat which is not necessarily going to do what the film-maker dictates. The scenes where characters sing and dance, entertaining themselves - it may be a-historical, I don't know - but seems more lifelike, fun, even antipodean of outlook, than the mannered periodicity we usually get in period films. The poetry: some of the magic of poetry - a difficult ask in films - is achieved without mawkish, full-blown sentimentality. The film is too long, you know it's going to end badly, so hurry up and die was my churlish thought. But Cornish's portrayal of grief was so powerful no wonder people wept in the cinema. Too many of the user reviews above seem to be driven by the usual Brit emotional constipation and/or a desire to appear superior to the common ruck. Finally, Jane Campion is one of the great film directors, yet her body of work is barely mentioned. Would this happen with de Palma, Scorsese, Hitchcock? - don't think so. Just another chick film - yeah?

Can't believe Jane Campion made such a weak film. It was like A level students or acting school grads trying to show how much they appreciated poetry. Don't agree with the comments that it was beautifully filmed either!

I was looking forward to sseing this it's sad to report that I found it very disappointing. At no point did it spring to life and there was no spark between the two leads. The result was that I was left completely unmoved by the film which I had not expected. I don't mind films that are slowly paced and a personal favourite is Ozu's "tokyo Story". At the cinema I saw it at (Richmond Curzon) I couldn't always hear the dialogue. It was as if the actors were swallowing their words. I found the music very intrusive and found it absurd that the poem read over the final credits was frequently drowned out by it. Horrible arrangement of Mozart as well! This film vies with "In the City of Sylvia" as my worst film of the year.

My wife loves the poetry of Keats and loved the film. It made her cry, and she thought that the two leads were just fine.

I don't know much by Keats but, for what it's worth, I do enjoy the novels of Jane Austen, written shortly before this period in history; so I didn't expect the film to be action-packed. That said, "Bright Star" made Merchant Ivory seem like Tarantino, plodding along, with dull or irritating characters (Mrs Braune; Mr Brown) and a leading man who looked and sounded out of his depth. Abbie Cornish was good. For someone who strives for authenticity, Jane Campion should note that Mr Brown would not have written with his left hand - a common mistake with nineteenth century adaptations.

I'm under 45 and loved this film. True, it doesn't have the thrills of a blockbuster, but if you want flash, bang and car crashes, go and see Transformers. If you love Keats's words and sensitive performances, see Bright Star.

Well, I am over 45 and I hated this film. It is incredibly beautiful, and not in the vapid sense of certain filmmakers who linger over beautiful places and people. Each shot is carefully crafted and delivered. But that's not enough. I agree with everything Braxton Hicks says: I was also longing for Keats to get it over with about half-way through. The film was devoid of any real emotional charge between the 'lovers' and was ludicrously dominated by a manufactured dramatic contrast between the wistful dying poet and his lusty shouty friend Charles Brown. Ghastly! The most ridiculous line in the film sums up the whole thing: when the distraught Fanny begs to know why Keats is going away to die, he replies that it was because his friends had bought him the ticket. If I hadn't been so enervated, I would have laughed out loud (someone else did). Yes, this is a film about Fanny Brawne rather than John Keats, but unfortunately Campion seems to have missed the point that 'Fanny Brawne' the love-object and Fanny Brawne the 'girl next door' were two different things. The first was a Romantic idea, the other - who knows? And - well - who cares?

absolute tosh, one dimensional, predictable, pointless, misjudged, contrived, inauthentic film about some young acting graduates, who are a long way from understanding or mastering their craft, getting to ponse around in admittedly beautiful but inauthentic period frocks. From the glaswegian queen, to the blue denim dress, to the a capella voices competing with the poem at the end, why oh why oh why, all the fuss? Most irritating is that the cooing critics mean that this sort of rubbish will continue to consume funding for the creative cinematic arts when there are so many original, imaginative, intelligent, able and gifted filmmakers with so much more interesting things to say about the world we live in, who have not been funded so that, how many people in the italian crew? (for what seemed to be a 30 second sequence at the spanish steps) can galavant pretending they are making an important film. The only saving grace was the photography which was skillful and picturesque and would have lent authenticity had the colours not been b'stardised in the editing suite.

The whole audience stayed to the end of the credits, as the narrator recited a Keats poem - don't remember which one. It's possible it took that long for the audience to wake up at the end of the film. Some of the photography was lovely, beautiful shots of the apple orchard. The actress playing Fanny, and the cat, were both lovely. The film was far too long, though.

Awful, torture having to sit through it. Completely without interest at any level.

Truly the most appalling film I have ever seen. The critics are speaking absolute nonsense! I have never in my life wanted to walk out of the cinema, but I could not wait to leave this flaccid, pretentious piece of nonsense. In terms of acting ability, Whishaw had absolutely nothing behind the eyes. He tells Fanny that they 'will never see each other again on this earth' with as much passion as if he were ordering a Chinese takeaway. Yet again, the casting directors have gone for looks over acting ability. Emotion pours from the actress playing Fanny (and admittedly there is a decent moment where she breaks down) but one wonders whether she is simply trying to compensate for her wooden acting partner. Most dramatic moment? Fanny quivering, 'Mr Keats has gone to London without his coat'. Most ludicrous moment? Mr Keats underneath a hedge. Somebody PLEASE explain this travesty and then explain the mind-boggling reactions from those who loved it!

Don't believe the hype (and the very obviously production company-placed 'positive' punter reviews). This is over-rated and under-heated tosh, high concept Mills and Boon, that doesn't even stack up as a story. Most of the supporting characters have no obvious role or identity (I gave up trying to work out who they all were after about 5 minutes). Worse, it all felt completely historically inauthentic, a 21st century Hollywood-romantic take on early 19th century English romantics. And don't let Andrew Motion's involvement fool you! Simple mistakes like wonky accents (most obviously Brown's ludicrous Scottish). Utterly unengaging, unless you actually like films that consist of little more than interminable sighing and swooning. And it fails the ultimate biopic test of quality - does it make you want to go back and 'rediscover' Keats' work for yourself? Not bloody likely.

A memorable film and the most feminine one I've ever seen. It seems to be a film about the feelings Keats and Fanny Brawne have for one another, rather than a film about their relationship. Fanny's yearning for Keats when he's away reminded me powerfully of what teenage love feels like and the actress' vocalisation of her physical agony when Fanny hears of Keats' death has such a variety of pitch and tone it's almost a piece of music. Edie Martin as Fanny's sister gives the truest and most natural performance of a child I can ever remember seeing. It's almost a natural wonder, this film.

A memorable film and the most feminine one I've ever seen. It seems to be a film about the feelings Keats and Fanny Brawne have for one another, rather than a film about their relationship. Fanny's yearning for Keats when he's away reminded me powerfully of what teenage love feels like and the actress' vocalisation of her physical agony when Fanny hears of Keats' death has such a variety of pitch and tone it's almost a piece of music. Edie Martin as Fanny's sister gives the truest and most natural performance of a child I can ever remember seeing. It's almost a natural wonder, this film.

Just returned from seeing Bright Star with such mixed feelings I wanted to check the reviews I am over 45, but still I wasn't swept away. I felt the parts were all beautiful but the sum of the parts just didn't add up to a whole. I found the heavy editing of so many scenes left me asking why bother to show in the first place. I thought Abigail was really great, where have I seen her before?

If your over 45 you'll love this film,if your under 45 than there is a possiblity you will think it is tedious and boring.The film is wonderfully slow and long.No sex no violence no swearing.It observes the beauty and sensuousness of living through natures seasons and through loves ups and downs.The little girl "Toots" is the star.However the misery is overdone,but if your older you might appreciate this a bit more. 4 stars

Keats might be a neglected romantic poet but it gives no bobody the right to make a dull ,emotionally devoid and exasperatingly depressing biopic about that poor intellect who was a victim of both british climate and the characters as portrayed in this over the top ABYSMAL melodrama . While Whishaw is shy and introverted ,Cornish behaves like a victorian feminist who all but burns her bra in pursuit of keats ,offerring sex in so many words to a sick dying man . Campion handles a sensitive tragic true LOVE story as a artifice like a designer movie with every thing from lilac flower fields and meadows to wintry frozen england ,and tea services and country estates where these rather semi baked characters and semi directed actors actors bring misery by reciting keat's verses in dingy country estates . if that is not enough we have a cat ,a promiscuous housemaid ,class system divides ,and the persistent repetitive reminders that keat is a poor suitor for fanny brawne ,who is being prepared for husband hunting by her mother. Poor keats is as unaffective as Whishaw looks sick and pallid while he recants some of his poetry in obligatory persuasion ,while conish recites most of it as an excuse to understand and learn poetry . The tears flow as freely as the melodrama assumes hysterical proportions and it is reduced to a damp and dismal experience which leaves you cold and drenched in a mist of boredom . no wonder keats escaped to rome as these are enough reasons to whisk away - what a hugely disappointing overacted melodramatic and insanely hysterical poorly costumed period drama which can be made in 40 odd minutes and is dragged to 120 minutes and you feel every one second of those long dreary moments .

Saw a preview screening of this a couple of weeks ago. Have no idea why this has been so lauded over... this was probably the single most unengaging, dull and tedious film I've ever seen. Tried to get into the story, but all the characters are impentrable, and kept completely at arms length. The film looks great, and there are moment of humanity, but otherwise a cold, heartless film, which had me yawning from about 10 minutes in and went downhill after that. A waste of 90 minutes if you ask me.

I found this film overly pretentious, posed, terribly slow and unfortunately I was not able to stay longer than 1 hour. After Brawne's sister says she needs a knife to kill herself, I had lost my patience. The movie seemed to last the poet's entire lifetime. I think this is only the 2nd movie I have walked out on in my life. I feel bad about this but I think the Sound Of Music Sing-a-long at that I was anxious to see at the Hollywood Bowl may have had something to do with my impatience with this film. By comparison, the Sound of Music still ranks as perhaps the best film of its type ever.