So, THAT was a mistake. Not the fact of seeing Jane Campion's Bright Star at long last, mind you. But it was a mistake to write up my Best of 2009 Movies post before I did.* I honestly don't know why I was expecting it to underwhelm me. Maybe that the few people who were even talking about it were already such huge Jane Campion partisans that their raves felt expected? Won't be making that mistake again. (And honestly, I would have seen it eventually. I just wish I'd gotten my hands on it two weeks ago.)
*[For posterity's sake, I'd have recognized it for Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Costumes, Art Direction, Cinematography, and it would have made my Top 10 list. And I may yet amend those posts to reflect that.]
Anyway, inside-baseball hand-wringing aside, what a movie! I've always liked Campion -- even her one big failure, In the Cut, was an incredibly interesting one -- and in Bright Star she delivers one of the most honestly romantic stories I've seen in a very long time. She depicts the love affair (if one could even properly call it an "affair," it's so delicate) between the poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne as a decidedly juvenile thing, entirely sweet in its courtship, without ever making it feel juvenile, or silly, or in any way fleeting. Due credit to Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw for their performances, each alive with the emotional boomerangs of young love; each exquisitely intimate in their quieter moments.
But I can't help seeing Campion as the star of the show here -- or at least co-starring with DP Greig Fraser. There is an endless string of breathtaking images, each one evoking young love in one or another of its incarnations. Lying in a field of violets, or in the accommodating branches of a tree, or the relaxed choreography of intertwining fingers, or first kisses, or the moment when holding hands feels so permanent that you side-step away from each other to see how far you can now reach.
I was absolutely captivated by Keats and Fanny's romance, and by Campion's camera that captured it; so please indulge me as I post about a dozen reasons why below: