Sometimes when you watch a period piece such as this film you begin to wonder if the director made any effort to depict a realistic portrayal of the era. Some period films just seem like modern stories told with actors in period dress. They just don’t ring true. Director Jane Campion’s (The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady) film does not fall into that trap. It oozes an authenticity which allows you to be transported to the time of poet John Keats – the early 19th century.
23-year-old struggling poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw – Layer Cake, I’m Not There) falls for a girl he shouldn’t and they are forced to conduct their brief romance in secret. Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish – Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Stop-Loss) is a young woman who is caught up in the world of fashion. Her clothing creations, along with her good looks, make her stand out from most girls her age. Somehow these two opposites fall in love.
Keats meets Fanny through his friend and writing companion, Charles Brown (Paul Schneider – Lars and the Real Girl, The Family Stone). Fanny is not in the least bit interested in poetry or literature in general and Keats finds her to be a bit of a tease. She has caught the eye of Charles, but is not interested in him.
Soon enough Fanny and John bond over his nursing of sick younger brother. She helps him and this makes John warm to her. Their relationship is deepened when Fanny begins to take poetry lessons from John. They fall in love. When Charles and Fanny’s mother (Kerry Fox – Welcome to Sarajevo, The Hanging Garden) clue into the love affair it is too late. Fanny and John have become inseparable. This despite the fact that John has no means of supporting Fanny. The only thing that succeeds in separating them is John’s tragic death at the very young age of 25.
This is a true romantic film. At times it is heart wrenching, but it is always engaging. Each scene has been meticulously (very British in its style – slow and steady) crafted in order to tell the story the way director Campion has envisioned it. At times you may be overwhelmed by the deep sadness of the film, but that is what makes it so good. You feel as deeply about the characters as they do about each other. In its essence it is a simple story about love, but much depth has been instilled in it through Campion’s guiding hand and the marvelous acting by the relatively unknown cast.
The acting, music, costumes, lighting, sets, and mood of the film are all bang on. As a result you are completely swept up into the romance of the story despite the fact that you know it is going to end tragically.
You can stream the film on Filmrise.