Jane Eyre Review

Film Still
  • Jane Eyre film still


Cary Fukunaga hasn't made a Jane Eyre for our times – just a cracking good watch.

Oh, great. Just what we need. Another adaptation of some tired novel by whatever hidebound writer we’re ‘revisiting’ this year, conveniently forgetting why we stopped seeing them in the first place.

Only, hang on. It says here that Cary Fukunaga is directing Jane Eyre. That can’t be right. Didn’t he make Sin Nombre, that contemporary-as-fuck US border drama? And, wait a minute: Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender are the leads? The same Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender who more or less constitute the two most interesting and talented actors of their generation? Shit. Maybe this is worth a shot.

In fact, Jane Eyre is worth more than a shot. It’s not a contender, it’s a prize fighter – a sumptuous, enthralling Gothic thriller based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë in which a young governess falls for a dashing aristo, only to discover – too late – that his ancestral manor house is home to a dark secret.

Fukunaga isn’t trading in Baz Luhrmann-style reinvention. This isn’t an adaptation for the kids, and there’s no particular twenty-first-century resonance. What he’s done, brilliantly as it turns out, is strip the novel down to its roots, focusing resolutely on the dramatic arc of Jane and Rochester’s relationship, enriched by the pathos of her past, and some genuinely unsettling scenes that bring the story’s darkest moments vividly to life.

Jane’s is a lifelong saga of betrayal, of hopes dashed and lies swallowed. Wasikowska has never looked more fragile, more hopelessly vulnerable than she does here, and yet there’s an inner steel to this performance that contrasts Rochester’s vacillating charm and despair. Fassbender is electric – effortlessly charismatic and dangerously seductive; this could finally be the performance that puts Colin Firth’s infamous Darcy in the shade.

In approaching the material with respect, restraint and simple good taste, Fukunaga has created something strangely revelatory. It’s not a Jane Eyre for our times – just a cracking good watch. And that’s really all we hoped for.

Last weekend See Film Differently hosted a special gala screening of Jane Eyre at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire. Check out what went down on Facebook and look out for future events at seefilmdifferently.com

View 4 comments

George O

3 years ago
I disagree, I thought it was a bit of a turd.

It felt like a Jane-Eyre-by-numbers, racing through the book, glossing over certain parts, and feeling ultimately like a boring textbook-style stale adaptation that covers every 10th page, making no attempt to focus on any detail. Boring performances didn't help much either. Nothing 'revelatory' here.

It just adds to the increasingly valid perception of book to film adaptations being messy, watered down and adding no value. (I usually support book-to-film adaptations)

Matt Bochenski

3 years ago
Hi George. I think one of the benefits of not having read the book is that you don't suffer from judging it as an adaptation. The danger in that route is that you end up reviewing the film you didn't see rather than the one you did. With fresh eyes, I felt this was a pretty good yarn, well told, well delivered, entertaining. Good solid cinema.

Jane Keaton

3 years ago
I agree, finally a director and actors that understood Charlotte's characters. Beautiful film. As a lifelong lover of the book, I missed a couple of elements, but overall the best version ever, maybe the best we could hope to get. I would have liked to read your craftily written review minus the F bomb, though.

George O

3 years ago
Hi Matt

I actually haven't read the book, and while knowing all too well that it was an adaptation, I still got the vibe that it glossed over core details/elements that defined the book. I asked a few friends what they thought, and having read the book, they agreed that it felt like a rush job.

It's strange, I was really looking forward to this, and having not read the book was hoping for a film experience that I couldn't judge against the book, yet the style/outcome of the film caused me to do exactly that. I think Fassbender's bland performance annoyed me even more.

Love your latest Drive issue btw!
Comments are closed.