Bright Star

 
Romantic, moving film unlikely to interest tweens.
  • Review Date: September 15, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 119 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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

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.

Sex

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).

Language

"Idiot" is firmly in the lexicon. "Damn" is also used.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink and smoke socially on a few occasions. The smoking is accurate for the movie's time period.

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).

What's the story?

Opposites attract in BRIGHT STAR, director Jane Campion's affecting portrait of the enduring love that develops between 19th-century Romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw), and his Hampstead neighbor, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Keats, then 23, was a struggling writer, while 18-year-old Fanny was a fashionable flirt with a gift for sewing and no interest in the art of words. But you can't choose who you fall in love with -- you're summoned. And summoned they are, despite Keats' inability to support a family, let alone himself. And when he's stricken with tuberculosis, the young lovers' odds don't improve.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Period dramas often stumble because they can feel like play acting. Viewers are keenly aware that the events took place long ago, if at all, and are rarely invested in what they see. 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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about John and Fanny's relationship. Why do so many characters seem to think that they don't belong together? What were the stakes for young lovers at that time, especially for women? How did those stakes vary by social class?

  • Why do you think Keats doesn't press Fanny for a physical relationship? Was society's view of sex different in their time?

  • Does it seem like poetry was more appreciated during Keats' than it is now? If yes, why? Who are the famous poets' modern-day counterparts?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 18, 2009
DVD release date:January 26, 2010
Cast:Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider
Director:Jane Campion
Studio:Miramax
Genre:Drama
Topics:History
Run time:119 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, some sensuality, brief language and incidental smoking

This review of Bright Star was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bykatzfamily October 2, 2009
age 12+
 

Probably better for older teens

I think the love story was very intense and the subject matter was not of interest to most 12 year olds. They found it hard to follow and understand. The moms did enjoy though! Just don't think most 12 years would enjoy!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Kid, 12 years old January 7, 2010
age 11+
 

Fantastic movie, but qutie slow..

This is a really reallly goood period drama, it beats Jane Austen's work if you ask me, however it is quite slow in parts and its all about young love, so its probably more appealing to girls than it is to guys, even tho im a guy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I said before, its slow paced and gentle, but there is nothing innapropriate i can think of, no sex, violence, drugs or anything, we briefly see a cut in a girls wrist, two men die of TB and the ending is quite sad and could be very upsetting, but its a lovely, beautiful film, and I highly reccomend it to people interested in these kinds of films.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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