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Review

John Keats biopic wins romantic hearts

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October 15, 2009

After a week filled with rotten meat, cold weather and sniffles, it was clear that a new film review was in desperate need. Something that would lift not only me, but also perhaps my inadequate chemistry skills out of the Debbie Downer we were stuck in. Should I see a comedy? My skepticism after last week with the so-called ‘comedic’ world of the disgusting and unnatural told me to do otherwise.

Maybe action? While usually I’m all for it, this week’s moody blues didn’t exactly put me in a smash and grab kind of mood. No, what I truly wanted for this week’s review was to simply enjoy myself and to forget about the week I had just had. Well Falcons, I got lucky. Better than that, I got just what I wanted.

Who knew Jane Campion was all I needed?

Through her own writing and direction, the film “Bright Star” examines the lives and tragic romance of poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his love Fanny Brawn (Abbie Cornish). For all the men reading my review this week, I apologize. I know I’m setting you up for a chick flick that your girlfriend insists you see, but trust me, not only will you gain brownie points with her, but also with your respective
English teachers. A period piece, its setting is the 19th-century English countryside where Miss Brawn and her family are introduced to the very young, very poor poet and his writing companion. As the
Brawn family moves closer to the writers, love emerges between the eldest daughter Fanny and John Keats. Along with conflicts of social class, wealth, and friendship, the story follows the poet’s evolution as a writer through his work, his love, and the turmoil that both can bring to a young man of the time.

While certainly not fast-moving or dramatic to the degree we are used to by today’s standards, what sets this enjoyable and refreshing movie apart is its symbolism, which can be seen throughout in the context of its format. The film is reminiscent of Keats’s slow moving poetry (much like the era), which is inflected with the thoughts and emotions of a classical theme. The characters too, are much like his poems: slow to progress but eventually very charged, sparking connections to the audience. Scenes between Keats and Fanny are filled with a deep sense of sensuality instead of sexuality. Indeed, instead of the blatant ripping of bodices or tearing of shirts, passion is portrayed through the simple nature of touch, something that’s not often captured on film despite the act’s ease and elegance.

Because of this beautiful way that Campion ties the lovers together, one could say that “Bright Star” is more of an artistic piece than a blockbuster, though don’t let that dissuade you. While those of a more artistic background might admire the film for these qualities, I believe anyone can appreciate it for the story behind it.

All in all, this film has been a perfect way to end a less than perfect week. While the sniffles still abound, the cold has actually brought the first snow, and I can’t help but smile, for something bright has warmed my heart.

Katie Heaton is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.