Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Semi-Objective Film Review of Jane Eyre (2011)

Directed by Cary Fukunaga, Jane Eyre (2011) tells the story of a young governess who overcomes her circumstances and falls in love with her mysterious employer. Along with Fukunaga’s direction, the gloomy cinematography conveys the Gothic element of this classic tale particularly in the opening sequence when Jane wanders around the vast landscape leaving us wondering where she is. One minor exception to the Gothic element is the red room which Jane is supposed to believe that her dead Uncle Reed haunts. The red room looks like a tacky sitting room with the sun shining too brightly for a room that is supposed to be a place of punishment.

In my previous post, I note the specific issues that I had with the screenplay. However, I do appreciate the clever use of the flashback structure to compress the novel’s first act (Jane’s childhood) and the third act (Jane’s first few months with the Rivers family). The second act (Jane’s time at Thornfield) remains mostly uninterrupted focusing on the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester. However, the ending is simply too abrupt to satisfy even those who are not familiar with the novel and simply watching a period romance.

With the version that they are given, Mia Wasikowska does an excellent job in portraying Jane’s strength of conviction and intelligence as well as her shyness and awkwardness. Michael Fassbender does not portray the enigmatic teasing aspect of Rochester’s character especially in the first intellectual discussion scene and in the scene after Bertha attacks her brother. He telegraphs Rochester’s interest in Jane too much in those scenes. However, in the aftermath of the fire, a scene where Rochester should show an attraction for Jane, Fassbender provides the right amount of seduction.

Also, Jamie Bell gives me a new appreciation of the character of St. John Rivers, a character that I do not normally care for in the book and generally despise when watching Jane Eyre. Bell does not play the character as condescending as other actors have done but still maintains the character’s self-righteousness.

If I am in the mood for a highlight reel of Jane Eyre, I will watch this version. But if I want to indulge my novel purist side, I will watch the 1983 BBC miniseries version instead.

Jane Eyre film links:

Official Website

The Enthusiast’s Guide to Jane Eyre Adaptations

Up in the Eyre: Why are there so many movie adaptations of Jane Eyre, and which one is the best?


  1. Hi Sherry! I believe we've 'met' via Twitter.

    I feel the same way as you about this film. I appreciate it and there are lots to admire here, but it leaves me wanting. "...the ending is simply too abrupt to satisfy even those who are not familiar with the novel and simply watching a period romance" YES! I'm glad you pointed that out. As a fan of the 1983 version w/ Dalton, I guess I've been spoiled by the careful pacing that give room for two characters to actually connect. Not too mention the amazing portrayal of Rochester by Dalton. That version is still by far my favorite!

  2. I liked the film way more than you did but the flashback method does work to show how intense Jane's emotions are at the time.

    And yes, I hated Rivers in the book more just because of the Edward Cullen-esque descriptions of him. Thankfully a) Bell portrays the character like a man and b) like any sane person, Jane and Bronte decided to abstain from that hot mess.