Title: Jane Eyre
Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender and Jamie Bell
Written by: Karen Benardello
Considered ahead of its time when it was first released in London in 1847, “Jane Eyre” has become a classic novel for its social criticism of society, class order and gender disparity. While many movie directors have difficulty translating morality lessons of past generations to the big screen in a way that modern audiences can still relate to them, Cary Joji Fukunaga easily made the transition with his adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre.’ With the help of actors who effortlessly connected to their roles emotionally, Fukunaga was able to capture his characters’ desire to break free from their expected society roles in a way that will allow viewers to connect to them as well.
The updated, modern telling of the beloved Charlote Brontë novel follows the title character, Jane Eyre (played by Mia Wasikowska), throughout various stages of her isolated upbringing. Fukunaga successfully made the bold move to derive from the novel and introduced the Rivers, the family Jane receives refugee from as an adult, in the beginning of the movie. Working backwards, the director then introduces the 10-year-old orphaned Jane (portrayed by Amelia Clarkson), who is cast out of her home, Gateshead, by her deceased uncle’s wife, Mrs. Reed (played by Sally Hawkins). Jane receives an education at the charity school Lowood, where she is physically and emotionally abused.
Jane finally obtains the kindness and respect she’s always looked for when she begins working at the Thornfield estate as a young adult. Edward Rochester (played by Michael Fassbender), the master of Thornfield, comes to treat Jane with admiration, even though she is the governess for Adele Varens (portrayed by Romy Settbon Moore), the child under his care. Despite Rochester’s professed love for Jane and proposal to marry her, she still flees Thornfield, and finds solace with St. John Rivers (played by Jamie Bell) and his sisters. While with the Rivers, Jane questions whether she made the right decision leaving Thornfield.
When fans of the novel first hear of the Focus Features movie, they may question why the studio would want to create another adaptation of the timeless classic. But once they see the film, they will realize that even though the plot is still set in the 1800s, Fukunaga was able to preserve Jane’s innocence while turning her into a relatable, 21st century female protagonist. As he has said, Jane “…is on a journey and finds someone (Rochester) she can relate to, who has suffered loss like she has, as she is plunged into complex situations and emotions.” Even though she is only a lowly governess, Jane is happy to finally have found someone who not only understands her needs and wants, but still accepts her for who she is.
Allowing Jane to break free of the typical society rules she has abided by all her life to consider a life with Rochester, the audience will be more likely to understand her desire to break free from the repression she has always endured. Jane’s need for freedom and to explore life outside of being a governess perfectly parallels people’s need today to break from the life roles placed on them.
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