MFR Rating: ★ ★
It’s only fair to begin this review by laying my cards on the table. For my shame, I’ve never read Jane Eyre nor have I viewed any previous adaptation, so I entered the cinema without any prior knowledge of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel. My expectations were completely empty, allowing me to judge the film based on how well it stands on its own.
For those of us feeling hopelessly uneducated, Jane Eyre is the mid-19th century story of a young woman’s abusive childhood, shunned to a boarding school before growing up and becoming a governess for the wealthy Mr Rochester, sparking a romance hiding a dark secret.
With only 2 hours to tell its story, the film mainly takes place during Jane’s years working for Mr Rochester, with flashbacks explaining her childhood. Fortunately the flashbacks never feel particularly forced, but unfortunately they are too few in number for the audience to feel enough connection with Jane’s youth. The film never seems to make much effort to get into Jane’s head, an opportunity particularly wasted as I’m informed the novel is told in the first person.
Jane Eyre just feels so icily cold. All the characters lack anything vaguely resembling human connection. The romance feels saturated like the incredibly plain, gray and brown colour palette used throughout the film. Both Mia Wasikowska (Jane) and Michael Fassbender (Mr Rochester) deliver performances that feel distant and disconnected. They fall in love far too quickly and with no tangible romance between the characters and look like they’re just going through the motions of an essential plot point from the novel. For a viewer without knowledge of the romance from the source material, it left me feeling pretty detached.
I must admit to feeling rather sleepy at several points. It does drag and unfortunately lacks much emotional weights. Maybe a fan of the book might enter with an entirely different perspective, but as a piece on its own: a big disappointment.
Jane Eyre is out now in the UK. Running time: 120 mins. Certificate PG (UK).
Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.
Review by David Rank