It was pure coincidence (if you believe in such things) that during the past three days I saw the only two films Cary Fukunaga has directed and saw Sally Hawkins in two films back-to-back. Not that there is any resemblance between Fukunaga’s two films or between Hawkins’ two roles (she has only a small role in Jane Eyre).
Indeed, it is hard to imagine a greater difference between Fukunaga’s two films. From the bright green crowded landscape of 21st-century Mexico we go to the bleak desolate moors of 19th-century England. From a wild and violent adventure yarn we go to an incredibly slow-moving and quiet drama. The only resemblance between the two films is that both are about young quiet women struggling against the odds to move forward in life.
Jane Eyre is a classic gothic novel given an old-fashioned classic gothic filming and I found that refreshing. Beautifully filmed and well-acted, with an emphasis on characters and with what I can only assume was a fair amount of Charlotte Bronte’s original dialogue, there is little in this film that separates it from the classic epic films of old.
Mia Wasikowska as Jane is altogether too accomplished an actress for her age. I knew when I first saw her in the first season of In Treatment that she had a great career ahead of her. Michael Fassbender is quite acceptable as Rochester and the romance between Jane and Rochester almost works (I mean that as a compliment). Judi Dench is her usually brilliant self as Rochester’s housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax.
If Jane Eyre hadn’t faded a little in the last half hour, I think I would have given Fukunaga his second straight four-star film. Not that I am complaining about the ending or that it’s predictable, because of course the story is very familiar to me (though it has been decades since I read the novel), so there are few surprises. But from the point in the story when a variety of secrets are revealed, I was not as impressed with the way it was filmed as I had been up to that point. So I am going to settle for ***+. If you want to watch a gorgeous old-fashioned gothic romance, don’t miss seeing this on the big screen. My mug is up, toasting a brilliant young filmmaker.