“Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.” -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Like most artists and poets, John Keats was severely under-appreciated while alive, only to later become one of the greatest 19th century Romantic poets. His muse, lover and companion of the three years prior to his death, Fanny Brawne, initially unfamiliar to literature and poetry, grew to be one of the most firm believers in the beauty of his poetry. Their unlikely love story was hindered by his lack of success as a poet and consequent lack of financial means and, finally, stopped short by his illness and quick death. Yet, the poems which have been written by John Keats during that time are some of the most beautiful in the history of Romantic poetry.
"Bright Star" is a work of art as far as its appeal to the senses goes. Directed by Jane Campion - director of another great film, "The Piano" - it tells the short life of John Keats and the love between him and Fanny Brawne. It is one of those rare films that, (similar to A single man) each element - actors, colors, scenery, music, poems, costumes - is so beautiful that it could almost stand on its own, but the effect in unison is hypnotic.
There are three reasons, other than its beauty and appeal to the senses, that ultimately make this film worth watching. First is the gradual personal transformation that Fanny undergoes as she falls in love simultaneously with John and his poetry, or his poetry and, then, John. The second is the relationship between John Keats and his colleague and, in many ways, care-taker, Mr. Brown, who readily admits his inferior talent as a poet yet cannot contain his raging envy of John and Fanny's love, so much so that his own personal life is forever altered by it. Thirdly, and finally, is the subtle yet clear message of the film: the stars that shine the brightest are the least tolerated by humanity, in more ways than one.
It is famously impossible for the act of writing to be made cinematic. How long can we watch someone staring at a blank sheet of paper? It is equally unenlightening to show the writer seeing something and dashing off to scribble down impassioned words while we hear him reading them in his mind. Campion knows all this, and knows, too, that without the poetry, John Keats is only a moonstruck young man. How she works in the words is one of the subtle beauties of the film. And over the end credits, Whishaw reads the ode, and you will want to stay. - Roger Ebert
Rear Roger Ebert's beautifully written and succinct review of the film here.