x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Jane Eyre

The latest screen adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel is an intimate rather than a melodramatic portrayal of a doomed relationship.

Mia Wasikowska in Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre.
Mia Wasikowska in Cary Fukunaga's Jane Eyre.

Director: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench
****

There have been so many screen versions of Jane Eyre that the obvious question is, do we need another? The answer from the Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga is a resounding yes. He veers away from the formalistic period approach of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996 film and treats us to a gothic coming-of-age tale that plays more like Twilight than Merchant Ivory. It stars the excellent Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) as the eponymous lead, who brings a wide-eyed innocence to the role. Plain and unloved, she escapes her aunt (Sally Hawkins) by taking a job as a governess. The film starts with her running away from an unspecified threat and into the waiting arms of a clergyman, St John Rivers (Jamie Bell), and it’s only in flashbacks that we learn that she is fleeing her past and the charms of Rochester (Michael Fassbender on the kind of form that he showed in Fish Tank and Hunger). Jane is much more of a tomboy than in Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, while Rochester still broods and manipulates but with much less external anger. It’s an intimate rather than a melodramatic portrayal of their doomed relationship with minimal dialogue and luscious landscapes emphasising the sense of isolation. Also of note is the expanded role of Thornfield’s housekeeper, Mrs Fairfax, which allows Judi Dench to show a maternal instinct in this surprisingly welcome take on the classic text.