The timeless tale of the governess who takes up a position at Thornfield Hall under the employ of the mysterious Mr Rochester is brought to cinematic life—again.
There are many reasons to film Charlotte Bronte’s epic once more: it’s large in scope, has interesting characters and has a few corking plot twists. And though there have been countless TV and film adaptations, this recent one certainly justifies itself with beautiful cinematography and a great cast.
Chief among them is young Mia Wasikowska, who has so far impressed with her performances in TV’s In Treatment and Tim Burton’s recent Alice in Wonderland. Here she proves that she is a great leading lady, bringing both mystery and warmth to Bronte’s complex character. Hers is a great performance that not only holds the film together but constantly manages to surprise.
Director Cary Fukunaga certainly hasn’t made a dusty revival of a film. It feels relevant and fresh, preferring a quick pace to musty atmosphere. Fukunaga has not only struck gold in casting Wasikowska but is also assisted by a great supporting cast, including Michael Fassbender as Rochester, Jamie Bell as St John Rivers and Judi Dench as Mrs Fairfax.
The odd thing is that the film is not let down by anything that is on screen; it is what isn’t there that cuts this down from great to simply good. The fact is that it’s just too short. In trying to simmer the dramatic action down to the basics, much has been cut. Some key characters are barely given enough screen time to register and many scenes play at such a quick pace it’s all but impossible to invest emotionally. It feels as if there should be a much longer cut, one that is well over an hour longer, which gives every character and scene a chance to breathe.
As it is, Jane Eyre is a good film. Fans of the book should be happy enough, and those that don’t know the story will not only be able to follow but just might be enticed to either read the book or seek out one of the better adaptations.
A very competent film with an excellent lead performance in Mia Wasikowska that is let down only by its too brief running time.