In a nutshell: Not so plain Jane falls in love with foxy Fassbender
Popcorn rating: 4.5/5
With the new Wuthering Heights adaptation just around the corner (complete with – gasp – a black Heathcliff) it’s timely for a revamp of the fairest Brontë of them all – Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. Cary Fukunaga, who impressed with Sundance winning Mexican gang feature debut Sin Nombre, may seem a strange choice as director for what at first glance (and especially when Judi Dench turns up) looks a super-expensive BBC costume piece – indeed the Beeb also co-produce – but the result is something quite special, to rival even the quintessential Orson Welles/ Jane Fontaine pairing in Robert Stevenson’s 1943 film.
No one does Gothic romance quite like the Brontës and Fukunaga and scriptwriter Moira Buffini (who penned Tamara Drewe) wisely stay true to the source material. Why bother attempting to create brilliant dialogue when Charlotte Brontë got there before you over 160 years ago? The most notable shift however is our introduction, transporting us to the latter quarter of the novel with Jane (Mia Wasikowska) fleeing from Thornfield across the bleak moors, before efficiently returning to childhood and the destiny-shaping position as governess for Mr Rochester’s (Michael Fassbender) ward in flashback.
Famously, Brontë described Rochester as ugly and the narrator herself as plain, but our two leads could never achieve this. Wasikowska is brilliant as a severe Jane, but Michael Fassbender – all Byronic sex appeal, piercing glances and filling out those breeches in a very healthy manner – is absolutely mesmerising. Okay, perving over, but if you caught his turn as Bobby Sands in Hunger, or even his magnetic Magneto in the new X-Men, you’ll know how the German-Irish actor can ignite a screen and the exchanges between Rochester and Jane are sizzling with tension.
Fukunaga also plays up the Gothic elements of the novel for some great suspense – for the four people left in the world who don’t know the reasons behind the strange events at Thornfield, Popcorn won’t spoil the surprise – but the atmosphere and mystery is brilliantly played and Adriano Goldman’s excellent cinematography captures the harsh landscape as an almost alien landscape, far from the rolling English fields of similar adaptations.
While much of the male section of the audience may roll their eyes at the aching romance, this is far from a Brontë-snorus, Jane Eyre is a brilliant adaptation, which is faithful but also brings something new. If you’re a fan of the novel – or my future husband Michael Fassbender – this is a must-see.