VOD film review: Jane Eyre (2011)
James R | On 07, Oct 2021
Director: Cary Fukunaga
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Mia Wasikowska
Where to watch Jane Eyre online in the UK: Netflix UK
From No Time to Die to Sin Nombre, Cary Fukuyama has cemented himself as one of modern cinema’s most versatile filmmakers – and that’s perhaps nowhere better demonstrated than his adaptation of Jane Eyre.
The gothic romance of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel should stick out like a sore thumb in Fukunaga’s filmography, but it demonstrates just how precise he is when crafting a tale, no matter the genre. Working with screenwriter Moira Buffini, they condense and cool down the fiery story into something that opts for an almost frosty intelligence over heated period melodrama. It’s a deliberately muted and thoughtful take on the text, and it’s matched by the smart casting:
Michael Fassbender is wonderfully imposing as Mr Rochester, a visible contrast to Mia Wasikowska’s withdrawn Jane Eyre – the former Dracula-esque without being a camp count and the latter restrained even as she has come to know her own worth.
We see some of those ordeals in flashback, after a striking opening that sees Jane running across the moors in a sequence that sets the bleak, cinematic tone for what’s to follow. DoP Adrian Goldman leans into the pathetic fallacy at play, using the rain and winds to amplify the gloomy atmosphere that permeates the whole frame. It also means that we can appreciate Jane’s woeful past without dwelling on it – something that fits into her own journey of self-taught independence.
Our central couple is supported by a cast that brings some depth to the more fleeting, abridged aspects of the book, including Judi Dench as the kindly but slightly enigmatic Mrs Fairfax, Simon McBurney as a sinister teacher and Jamie Bell as a clergyman. But this is the lead duo’s show and everyone involved knows it. Jane’s idealistic attraction to the dangerous Mr Rochester is immediately believable from their almost ominous first encounter, and there’s crackling electricity in the way that his haughty looks are matched by her level stare.
Carefully steered by Fukunaga, this is a controlled, brooding story of repressed emotions that keeps the lid on as much as possible, and that makes the moments when it does come off elemental in their fiery tension.
Jane Eyre (2011) is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.