A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jane Eyre is a haunting romantic drama based on Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel. It doesn't have any strong sexual content (kissing/embracing is as steamy as it gets), foul language, or graphic violence, but the story at its core is still quite adult. The tale of a young governess -- a role that, in the 19th century, was neither seen as a servant nor as lady of the house, which made for a difficult situation in a class-based society -- who falls in love with her mysterious employer might seem tame by today's standards, but it’s filled with complexities. The film is often somber and sometimes spooky, and some scenes depicting how wayward children were treated in those days may seem downright cruel.
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What's the story?
Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska), an orphan with an abusive childhood, grows up to become a governess at Thornfield Hall. There she falls in love with the dark, brooding master of the house, Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender). When strange occurrences at the house cause Jane to uncover Mr. Rochester's terrible secret, she flees Thornfield Hall and seeks refuge with a clergyman and his two sisters, unsure whether her tragic love will ever be fulfilled.
Is it any good?
JANE EYRE does Charlotte Brontë’s novel justice -- no mean feat considering how many adaptations have come before. It’s scrupulously conceived for the screen by a director (Cary Fukunaga) with a steady hand who has infused so much feeling and power into such a murky, craggy, swoony landscape. And it's brought to life by actors who don’t simply interpret but actually dwell in their characters. Simply put, the movie leaves an indelible impression. Wasikowska is incredible; her Jane is a young lady determined not to let the cruelties thrown her way still her vibrant soul. From carriage to walk to stare, Jane is firmly rooted, ruffled only when the promise of happiness turns shaky.
Wasikowska shares loads of chemistry with Fassbender, whose Rochester is as vital in the present day as he was in the 19th century -- never mind the period dress and formal language. Dame Judi Dench and the rest of the cast are equally strong. Fukunaga favors a gothic approach, and it serves the story well. Complicated love, after all, can be forbidding. Despite a long-ish run time and some small literary liberties, ultimately Jane Eyre feels like it’s unspooling as it should and is a happy reminder that, yes, they do sometimes (if rarely) make them like they used to.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship at the core of the story. Is Jane and Rochester's romance right or wrong? How do you think today's society would react to a similar relationship?
What is the movie saying about how women and children were treated in the 19th century? Which characters can be considered positive role models?
If you've read the book the movie is based on, which do you prefer? Why? If you haven't read the book, does the film make you want to?
- In theaters: March 11, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: August 16, 2011
- Cast: Judi Dench, Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender
- Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content
- Last updated: April 23, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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