There are countless of stage, film and television adaptations of Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, that you may wonder if the world needs yet another version, if not to update and reintroduce it to another generation who have yet to read the source material, and through a different medium be intrigued enough to want to find out more, especially on subplots not covered. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, you'd come to expect a certain aesthetic quality associated with a period film, and this one doesn't disappoint.
Essentially telling the story of the titular character from childhood until her late teens, we go through her miserable time at her aunt's at Gateshead, and fast track through her strict education at Lowood School, essentially told in quick flashbacks that glossed over plenty of details and being spared a series of wrong doings dished out toward this outspoken little girl, whom by the time she's played by Mia Wasikowska, we're introduced to a very mannered, cultured young woman where the bulk of the narrative takes place during her stint as a governess at Thornfield Hall for the ward of Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender).
But that doesn't mean that the girl had essentially changed, but what I felt had become a little smarter in conforming to what society expects on the outside, while harbouring plenty of dreams and desires of an independent spirit on the inside, waiting for opportunities to present themselves before springing free. The crux of it of course comes from a persistent wooing by the lord of the house as the classic Byronic hero is taken in by what would be a whiff of fresh air compared to the other ladies whom he frequently comes into contact with, where in Jane Eyre is a combative spirit, an intellectual equal able to hold her own in conversation and wit. Therein lies a problem, given societal norms of the time what with social standing, and impropriety coming from an employer-employee relationship, which Mrs Fairfax (Judi Dench) never fails to remind.
Starring Mia Wasikowska who shot to prominence here in Tim Burton's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, she continues her playing of literary characters with her version of Jane in truly plain Jane fashion and constantly decked in frumpy coloured clothes to highlight her dedication and quiet strength, coupled with her high morals in refusing to do what's not right nor succumbing to the affairs of the heart, despite what I would believe are concerns that are likely glossed over in today's context. And she owns the role of the passionate and outspoken young woman that you'll likely find yourself rooting for her whenever adversary gets in her way. Fassbender continues to charm his way on screen as the roguish looking Rochester whose mood swings to and fro at the drop of a hat, sending conflicting signals and all the while harbouring something quite sinister in the background that unravels itself like a good mystery. It'll do you some good to keep an eye on Fassbender's career from this point on.
The beauty of the English language comes to play here, while we do not speak like that anymore, it brings out a certain romanticism throughout the entire film. With strange and mysterious incidents peppering Jane Eyre's governess stint that will hold your attention span, if you're gearing for an English period romantic drama, then Jane Eyre will be your choice before it gets forced out by the summer blockbusters, even if the narrative has to be watered down from its novel, focusing its attention solely on the key components of the character's life. Recommended, and I really enjoyed the haunting soundtrack.