Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Judi Dench
Review: Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre is beloved by many readers the world over. Whether it’s for it’s interesting, possibly ahead of its time story, its feminist ideals, or one of many other reasons, people seem to love this novel. I have never read it myself and am not that familiar with it so this film was my first foray into the world of the Bronte sisters and Jane Eyre.
It’s never really made clear in the film whether the movie plays up the feminist angle or is taking the perspective of a pseudo documentary in which it shows what life was really like for a woman back in that time. Wasikowska seems to be good at playing the ahead of her time headstrong female lead and she plays the part very well here. I find it hard to believe there might be a woman in that time that would act in that manner but I suppose history is full of women who broke the mold and didn’t act as they were told.
Jane Eyre was sent away to a school for girls at a young age where she was quickly shunned and outcast as it was immediately noticed by the other girls how different she was and how she did not choose to conform simply because she was told to do so as a woman of that time. This caused her to have a very rough time in the formative years of her life. As is the case often in these scenarios there are two options a person has: they can either give up on life, become someone who is easily dominated and pushed around by others, or become stronger within themselves, staying reserved and standing strong when confronted with the cruelty of the outside world.
Through all her tribulations Jane became a reserved headstrong woman who had a certain aura about her that seemed to draw people in. All Jane wanted in her life was to be in a place where she could make her own way. It seemed Jane never believed in the logic that a woman HAD to have a man in order to make something of herself in that world, perhaps being mistreated so much she had convinced herself that she didn’t need a man, either way she desired to be in a place in which she was independent and could make her own way.
That brought her to the house of Mr. Rochester where she was offered the opportunity work as a governess to Mr. Rochester’s daughter. Rochester is not around often and needs someone to look over his daughter who can help her become a good woman. Jane immediately sparks a connection with the little girl as she sees a bit of herself in her as an outcast and because the little girl inexplicably speaks French to which Jane also speaks.
Upon Mr. Rochester’s return he is introduced to Jane Eyre and immediately notices something about her that draws him in. As was the case at the time, any urges or curiosity were handled with extreme care as men and women of society were not supposed to act on these curiosities. This leads to a back and forth between Rochester and Jane as Rochester is drawn in to this intriguing woman who is seemingly not as enamored with him and not as intimidated by him as other women. She doesn’t bend to all his demands and that is what draws Rochester in. Jane has to fight her urge of attraction to him as she has lived her life believing that she didn’t need a man and she also is of the belief that if she does end up with a man it does not need to be Rochester.
The interplay of their relationship is the main focus of the movie. Jane demonstrates her defiance of the norm of society and Rochester learns to deal with someone who is outside the “normal” behavior of a woman of that time. There is a lot that has to be worked out between the two but seemingly against all odds they wind up together. That is, until Jane learns of Rochester’s secret that ultimately splits them again and confirms what Jane knew all along, that there was no place for a man in her life and she can make her own way.
The film is told in flashback format as is the norm these days. It makes for a slightly confusing timeline that isn’t fully understood until about 90% of the way through the film. It all makes sense in the end, but is distracting until that point. As is also the case in these types of movies (perhaps due to the source material), there seems to be a story, but no real point. I am not sure if ambiguity was seen as a strong literary trait at this time, but there really didn’t seem to be a true purpose of the film. Rather, it was just a study of a woman in this time who was ahead of her time, and how she dealt with the events that happened to her in her life.
Ultimately, if you are a big fan of the novel it will be worth it to see or if you are a fan of scenery as this film is beautifully shot. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time more than a rental.