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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film celebrates young love and devotion, as well as passion -- for something or someone (in this case, Keats' for poetry, Fanny's for fashion, and both characters for each other). Keats' friends are very supportive of him, as is Fanny's family of her. There's some class tension -- the film doesn't shy away from the double standard that prevents Fanny from marrying Keats but allows an upper-class man to dally with a maid with no consequences.
Positive Role Models
Keats is the epitome of a gentleman. His love for Fanny is genuine, as is hers for him. Fanny is also quite devoted to her family, and their acceptance of Fanny's love for Keats is very empathetic. On the downside, Keats' friend Brown is derisive of Fanny, and dismisses her as a fashionista rather than an intellectual -- as if the two were mutually exclusive -- and is cavalier in the way he treats people of other classes.
Violence & Scariness
Two men have an argument, with one goading the other to fight out of anger. Some shoving. A main character eventually dies, though from illness, rather than violence.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A fair amount of flirting, hand-holding, and gentle kissing -- plus one sonnet-reading scene that has a very passionate, sensuous feel. One character pursues a maid and gets her pregnant (though they aren't seen together in bed).
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"Idiot" is firmly in the lexicon. "Damn" is also used.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink and smoke socially on a few occasions. The smoking is accurate for the movie's time period.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this moving period romance is tame on the surface -- there's virtually no violence, sex, strong language or other iffy content -- but it has an undercurrent of sexual longing fueled by social barriers that complicate the characters' ability to be with the people they love. And though the story is told with a great deal of grace, it does have a bit of grit (but virtually no violence, sex, strong language, or other iffy content). First, there's the consumption that finally claims poet John Keats -- its progression is delicately but truthfully depicted. Also, Keats' best friend is dismissive of those with no interest in poetry (i.e., Fanny, who's passionate about sewing instead), and there's some discussion about Fanny's virginity, but the conversations are oblique (and nothing more than kissing and hand-holding is shown on screen). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Period dramas often stumble because they can feel like play acting -- viewers are keenly aware the events occurred long ago, if at all, and are rarely invested; Bright Star isn't hobbled like this. It enfolds you in remarkable beauty, while also being grounded in a palpable sense of time and place. Campion brings the heath to life, and it's glorious to witness to Keats' and Brawne's relationship. There's a grace to the director's storytelling, and in her capable hands, both love and poetry become accessible.
But this is no fairy tale, either. Campion deftly explores class differences and artistic pressures as well as budding romance. Whishaw, as Keats, broods and contemplates (as poets do) without coming off as clichéd -- when he struggles to write, it's as if he's truly wrestling with words, and when his poems are finally read, they stun. Cornish is so authentic that you'll forget she's no 19th-century maiden; dialogue isn't just dialogue when she says it, and love no mere plot point when she feels it. Authenticity, in fact, permeates the whole movie. When Keats and Fanny place their hands on the wall separating their rooms, each on opposite sides, we feel privy to a genuine moment between two people helplessly enamored of each other.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.