Dramatic and strangely romantic, “Jane Eyre” is resurrected in this modern day adaptation, which does not disappoint in packing a powerful punch. There have been upward of 20 TV and movie adaptions to Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 classic novel “Jane Eyre,” but Cary Joji Fukunaga trumps any other attempt at bringing Brontë’s art to life in this 19th century period piece.
In the opening scene, Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska, “Alice in Wonderland”) runs away from the comfort of the Thornfield House, where she is a governess for the affluent Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender, “Burke”). The movie continually switches between Jane’s traumatic and suppressed childhood memories and her adult self. After becoming an orphan upon her parents’ deaths and being abandoned by her wicked aunt, she was sent to a boarding school that did not hesitate to inflict corporal punishment on its students.
Between the verbal and physical abuse she experienced and the loss of her only true friend, Jane lived the first part of her life feeling little self-worth. Yet, as time imprinted its experiences on her life, Jane emerged a wise and strong woman thriving on the ability to provide for herself, without having to answer to anyone.
During this time of embracing her freedom, Jane and the brooding, bold Rochester fall in love, and Jane discovers a secret that Rochester has been hiding from the world. This secret changes the course of the film, but does not diminish the love between Rochester and Jane, as love is fully embraced at the end of the film. The movie is like a puzzle; you have to pay attention to all that is happening, or you may just miss an important piece.
This type of deep drama, chock-full of old English language, is not a movie for everyone.
“Jane Eyre” is aimed at a mature crowd that can appreciate the intricacies of the script and beauty of the tale as it slowly unfolds. Although the acting, plot and setting of the film are stellar, the movie was tedious at times.
Listening to the old dialogue and concentrating in order to understand the flashbacks became draining. The movie is not predictable; however, it did resemble other vintage movies set during this time in history. The unlikely couples end up marrying for true love in a time when people married exclusively within their class or religion. The female is the rogue free-thinker who is not afraid to speak her mind despite her lack of money and status. The man is the affluent, handsome and opinionated individual who craves the challenge of an independent woman in a time when women knew their place. The tension builds throughout the entire movie, with both characters held back by circumstances in their lives.
In an era when we are accustomed to passionate displays of love, Brontë takes a long, circuitous route to love. At times, the path it takes is a bit arduous, even aggravating.
“Jane Eyre” forces one to think out of context and to imagine falling in love in a way that would be called unconventional today. Jane and Rochester only have a handful of conversations throughout this dramatic film, yet by the end, Mr. Rochester professes his love to Jane as if he had known her for years. Even when the couple is physically separated, neither of them doubts the love they have found for each other.
It almost feels magical to slip into a story where love triumphs over diversity and hardship — leaving us with the sense that, perhaps, love can conquer all. While “Jane Eyre” is not a typical 21st century love story, it brings a sense of everlasting love to the forefront, bringing out the romantic out in all of us.
Overall, “Jane Eyre” is a wonderful movie for those who adore fancy language, women in bonnets and a movie steeped in drama. The sheer complexity of literary adaption from the classic tale may frighten some, suggesting it is not a movie for everyone to rush out and see. However, if you are a romantic at heart, completely drawn in by the literary classics, you will find the film to be enchanting, offering talented acting, vivid scenery, befitting costumes and astounding special effects.
It is definitely not a movie for the kids, or even for the family, but knowing what to expect will help in deciding whether to see “Jane Eyre.”
4 out of 5 stars