Bright Star It is rare that a film separates potential viewers into two camps so easily as Bright Star, director Jane Campion’s ode to the relationship between John Keats, the great 19th century Romantic poet, and Fanny Brawne, an independent, opinionated Englishwoman whose intellectual curiosity and appreciation for poetry won Keats’ heart. For filmgoers who enjoy lushly filmed, micro-detailed period dramas about star-crossed lovers laboring under oppressive social mores, Bright Star offers an impressive example of the genre, with Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish delivering intense, nuanced performances as the penniless poet and his gentlewoman lover, separated by societal restrictions but united by romantic passion. Campion’s film, which she also wrote, is a bravura example of a director’s refusal to compromise thematic depth and character development for the quicker pace favored in modern media. For the rest of you, two full hours of heated poetry recitations exchanged between longing gazes and chaste kisses may seem like a life sentence at the Jane Austen Correctional Facility. Make no mistake, while Bright Star is a beautiful film, it is exactly what Campion set out to make: a weighty oil painting depicting the doomed love of a Romance poet and his muse, with liberal doses of quoted verse in the dialogue and a willful disdain for pacing. In 1818 England, Fanny Brawne (Cornish) enjoys a mild, quiet life with her widowed mother and younger brother and sister. Locally known for her skillful needlework and clothing designs, Brawne presents a protagonist who might have
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