Film Review: JANE EYRE

Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga

Written by Moira Buffini, based on the novel by Charlotte Bronte
Starring: Mia Wasikowski, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Judi Dench
Release date: March 11, 2011
This is my favorite version of JANE EYRE. I might as well say that at the outset. It’s also a favorite novel of mine. Not always. As a college freshman, I thought it absurd. Coming on it as I did in the late sixties, it lacked the sparseness that appealed to me at that age. I saw little difference between JANE EYRE and VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.
Twenty years on, I could appreciate it for its portrayal of nineteenth century England’s societal ills and its love story made sense within that framework.
Last week I criticized THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU for being too much a love story embedded as it was in science fiction trappings. The romance submerged the more interesting idea for me.
But JANE EYRE was written as a romance and the impediments put between Jane and Rochester were part of a tradition in such novels.
PLOT: Is there anyone who does not know it? Briefly, Jane (Wasikowski) is an orphan, a plain girl who’s had a Dickensian childhood at the hands of her hateful aunt. But through pluck and intelligence, she survives the boarding school she’s sent off to and becomes an educated woman. She takes a position as a governess in the home of Mr. Rochester (Fassbender), educating his “ward.” Thornhill is a dark and gloomy place that only comes to life when Mr. Rochester comes home on a visit. He is a frightening man at first but romance wins out—almost. But Jane must come to terms with the secrets of Thornhill to find love.
A Japanese director seems especially appropriate for a book that Japanese children read to learn English. When we were fortunate enough to visit the Bronte home in northern England, all the signage was in English and Japanese.
And perhaps repression is familiar to the Japanese people too. JANE is about repression and, finally, its unleashing. I am sure Bronte was familiar with repression, being the daughter of a clergyman and living in the place she did.
The acting in this film is superb; the leads perfectly cast. Previous films have used actresses far too old to play Jane Eyre. She is nineteen after all. Some have criticized the film’s unrelentingly dark look. But that’s entirely in keeping with the book. This is not the Bennett family. This is not Jane Austen. Highly recommended.
Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.