Jane Eyre

Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, and Jamie Bell

There are always films that slip through the cracks that even I don't get the chance to catch while they're in theaters.  There are so many hidden gems out there, and it's my mission to catch them all with a drink in hand.  That's why retro reviews are so important to STMR.  2011 was a big year for a lot of young actors, namely Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Fassbender.  While I covered most of their films, there's one I neglected to review — Jane Eyre, a gloomy adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's novel of the same name.  I'm here to right this wrong, and bring this magnificent film to your attention.

Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) is a tortured young woman.  Having fled from all that she knows, she finds herself in the care of three brothers and sisters — St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell), Diana Rivers (Holliday Grainger), and Mary Rivers (Tamzin Merchant).  They help her to get back on her feet.  When they offer to help Jane return to her home, she refuses.  Instead, she asks them to help her find work.  St. John Rivers gets her a position as a school mistress.  With this new job, Jane tries to erase any memory of her past.

As a young girl, Jane Eyre is orphaned.  She is raised by her aunt, Mrs. Reed (Sally Hawkins).  Her aunt has a certain disdain for her and sends her off to a very strict boarding school for sinners led by the slimy Mr. Brocklehurst (Simon McBurney).  After enduring a childhood of suffering and exclusion from the world, Jane Eyre goes out into the world and finds employment as a governess for Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender).  Mr. Rochester's housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench) helps Jane get used to her new life.  However, Mrs. Fairfax can't help her deal with Mr. Rochester and the dark romance that blooms between her and her new employer.  She eventually flees from the Rochester mansion with good reason.

Jane Eyre is a fantastic period piece.  With this dark haunting romance, director Cary Joji Fukunaga brings Charlotte Brontë's novel to life in a grand way.  This is quite an impressive feat given that there have been more than a half dozen adaptations of this novel over the years.  This is the eighth adaptation of Jane Eyre on the big screen.  We all know the story.  We're quite familiar with the characters.  With this in mind, Fukunaga has two tasks — creating a dark, gothic world for this romance and getting strong performances out of his stars.  Mission accomplished.

Jane Eyre is a profoundly gloomy romance.  Cary Joji Fukunaga does a great job of ensuring this.  You can see it in the pale, glum cinematography, particularly in the often grey sky.  You can hear it in the dark musical selections from the score.  You can feel it in this doomed romance that buds between Jane Eyre and Edward Fairfax Rochester.  Every glimmer of happiness or bliss is quickly crushed.  This is not a romance you leave with a warm fuzzy feeling.  Fukunaga has crafted one of the darkest, most disturbing romances I've had the pleasure of watching in recent memory.

The three main actors all bring their best to Jane Eyre.  As the title character, Mia Wasikowska gives a powerful performance.  With a restrained, subtle delivery, she gives us this tormented young woman in all her agony.  As Edward Fairfax Rochester, Michael Fassbender continues to expand on his résumé and shows his versatility with another magnificent performance.  Having played Magneto, Carl Jung and a sex addict in the same year as well, it's safe to say that the sky's the limit for this guy.  Finally, we have Dame Judi Dench in her role as Mrs. Fairfax.  The veteran actress is on top of her game and steals nearly every scene in which she has a meaty role.

Jane Eyre is an incredibly captivating film.  From flashbacks to Jane's tormented youth to the odd flame that kindles between Jane and the phantom-like Edward, Fukunaga takes us on a dark, emotional journey.  With incredibly strong performances from the cast and creative filmmaking by Fukunaga, the piercing romance Jane Eyre deserves nothing less than a sober rating.