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
Is this the sequel to Pride and Sensibility by that Charlotte Austen woman?
Vivid, compelling and at times properly scary, Jane Eyre is actually not rubbish at all.
We’ll still be wary of the next nineteenth-century novel adaptation.