Jane Eyre 1997

Samantha Morton2_Jane EyreThis film adaptation of the classic novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte was originally aired on Great Britain’s ITV in March of 1997 runs approximately one hour and 45 minutes.  Obviously, a great deal had to be cut from the story in order to fit it into that kind of time parameter, but Kay Mellor’s script concentrates rightly on the romance between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester and the Gothic suspense of Thornfield.

This review contains plot spoilers.

Orphaned ten year old Jane Eyre (Laura Harling), horribly mistreated by her father’s family, is bundled off to the Lowood Institution, a terrible school for orphan girls, ran by the evil Reverend Brocklehurst (Michael Denigris).  She makes one close friend who dies of typhus, but grows up to become a teacher.  The adult Jane Eyre (Samantha Morton), looking to see more of the world, takes a position as governess at Thornfield Manor.  The housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax (Gemma Jones) treats her kindly and she takes charge of a little French girl, Adele (Timia Berthome).  The master of the manor, Mr. Edward Rochester (Ciarán Hinds) is a rough man who has been greatly disappointed in life.  He takes an interest in Jane and they become friends, gradually falling in love.

But Thornfield holds a great secret, which Jane gradually becomes aware of: a seemingly crazy servant, Grace Poole, wanders the house at night, giggling insanely.  Mrs. Fairfax informs Jane that Ms. Poole is kept on due to her long service to the family.  Mr. Rochester brings some of the local gentry to visit him, including a beautiful young woman, Blanche Ingram (Abigail Cruttenden) who is determine to marry Rochester.  Jane is nearly at her wits end when she receives word that her aunt is dying and has requested her presence.  While Jane is gone, Rochester misses her terribly and when she returns he proposes to her.  They have some happiness before the wedding, which is interrupted by a Mr. Mason stating that they cannot be married because Mr. Rochester already has a wife.  Rochester drags them all back to Thornfield to reveal his insane wife that he married in Jamaica, through the deception of her family.  The marriage called off, Jane runs away and is discovered unconscious in a field by a young, handsome minister, St. John (Rupert Penry-Jones) who begs her to marry him and follow him to India as a missionary.  Jane, still obsessed with Rochester, goes back to find Thornfield burned to the ground, Rochester’s wife dead, and him a blind man wallowing in his own misery.  She surprises him, they marry and have two children.

Obviously, to anyone familiar with the novel, the film leaves out a great deal of the story.  It rushes through Jane’s childhood, skips through the Lowood years, eliminates the Reeds as viable characters, leaves out her inheritance and shoots through her association with St. John, all to serve the purpose of the romance, which is quite successful.  In this adaptation, it is not a deep story, but it is skillfully told.  The direction by Robert Young is deft, using creative camera angles, deep colors, and excellent editing.

Samantha Morton really carries the move from beginning to end.  Beautiful, passionately attached to her character, she wraps the movie around her and makes everything work.  Ciarán Hinds is a fine actor, but gets carried away sometimes with his passion.  The other supporting actors, including the wonderful Gemma Jones, all add to the strong ensemble.

In this version, we may miss major parts of the story, but the arc has been honed into something that somehow works altogether.  It’s sad that a knowledge of the full work by Brontë might hinder enjoyment of this movie, but that simply can’t be avoided in any adaptation of a major novel.  The one thing we call all be thankful for is that the preachiness of the book is cut along with everything else.

I think this movie should be seen, if for no other reason than the excellent performance by Samantha Morton!


Jane EyreRead my review of the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte!

This 1847 classic novel both delights and confounds a modern reader.

Told mostly in first person past (with brief lapses into first person present) by the heroine, Jane Eyre, the book was originally subtitled An Autobiography.  It begins with Jane as a young girl of ten years as an orphan living with her Aunt Reed at Gateshead Hall.


Jane Eyre 1996Read my review of the 1996 movie Jane Eyre by Franco Zeffirelli!

Adapting a classic novel to the big screen is always a dicey proposition.  The screen writer and director have a limited amount of time, yet there is so much in a classic novel that readers depend on for a satisfying experience.


Jane Eyre 2011Read my review of the 1997 Cary Fukunaga movie of Jane Eyre.

This adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre was produced in 2011.  Directed by Cary Fukunaga from a script by Moira Buffini, this is clearly the best of the recent movie versions of the novel.  Ms. Buffini’s script is faithful to the novel, yet innovative in the way it tells the story, bringing a passion lacking in the other attempts.

Calendar Girls

Calendar-Girls-001Even though the cinema is full of buddy movies and mindless stupid comedies, the joy of friendship, through good times and bad, isn’t celebrated enough in film, yet it is the heart and soul of this wonderful 2003 British comedy-drama.

A group of older friends in the small Yorkshire town of Knapely are members of the local Women’s Institute (WI), an organization dedicated to the advancement of women.  Every week, they attend lectures on various mundane topics and take place in the competitions for sewing and baking.  Chris (Helen Mirrin) is a buddy of Annie (Julie Walters) and she delights in making fun of these inane little events and the yearly calendar the WI puts out with pictures of flowers or bridges.  She helps her husband, Rod (Ciarán Hinds) run the local florist shop and they are raising a teenage son, Jem (John-Paul Macleod).  They decide to ask Annie’s husband, John (John Alderton), a connoisseur of flowers who works for the national park, to give a talk at the WI, but he reveals that he has cancer (leukemia).  Although he writes a lovely speech, comparing the women of Yorkshire to flowers, he dies before he can give it and Chris ends up reading it instead.  The combination of this writing and a the presence of a nude calendar at the local bicycle repair shop gives her the idea to do a nude WI calendar to raise money to replace the sofa in the family waiting room of the cancer wing at the local hospital.  She recruits Annie and their friends in the WI as models.

After many trials (including setting up a photoshoot with a trusted photographer, swilling a little wine to grease their courage, going through with the shoot, each getting naked, and somehow convincing the WI to go along with their idea), the calendar is finally released.  Not only is it a resounding success locally, but the British press pick up the story and the little town is beset with photographers and journalists.  Rod is a little put off by all the press and Jem is embarrassed that his mother has appeared naked in a calendar, but Hollywood calls and six of the women set off for Tinseltown to do an interview with Jay Leno.

With all of the exposure, Chris’s friendship with Annie is sorely tested and the two women must decide for themselves what is truly important in their lives.

Based on a true story, the screenplay by Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi is truly funny, not at the expense of these middle-aged (or older) women who make a nude calendar, but in respect to the strain on family and friendship that such celebrity creates.  It treats the drama very tenderly, with respect and restraint.  The direction by Nigel Cole is so cozy and kindly it creates a sense of warm familiarity that draws the viewer inside the story.

The performances are uniformly beautiful.  Helen Mirrin and Julie Walters create true, believable, and very warm characters, so real that we wish we actually knew them.  The other women are all great, especially Linda Bassett as Cora, the piano player, and Penelope Wilton as Ruth, a woman whose husband has gone wandering.  Ciarán Hinds and John Alderton are both terrific as the understanding husbands.

The nudity is very brief, mostly suggested, and very tastefully done.  In a story about friendship, it may be the driving plot device, but it certainly isn’t what the movie is about.

This is a wonderful film that I am happy to recommend to everyone.