The rock stars of their generation, the romantic poets of Regency England like Byron, Shelley and Keats turned heads and set women’s hearts aflutter. And if correspondence had a Top 40 chart, Keats would have easily topped it with the passionate letters he sent to Fanny Brawne from 1818-1820.
Bright Star illuminates their ill-fated courtship in a light-infused film, filled with lush scenes of flower fields and blowing curtains, china cups and young love. Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish as Keats and Brawne convey their desire for one another in sidelong glances and the touch of their hands, dancing through the delicate steps of courtship two centuries ago.
Fanny Brawne saved the letters John Keats sent her, and gave them to her children as a legacy. Their lyrical passion is woven through Bright Star like threads of silver, but the movie wisely shows just glimpses of the actual exchange of correspondence because putting pen to paper is not as dynamic to watch as the results are to hear.
“July 3, 1819
[Keats to Brawne]…write the softest words and kiss them that I may at least touch my lips where yours have been. For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form: I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair. I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”
On screen, Fanny collects butterflies with her brother and sister, filling her bedroom with the flutter of wings.
The film’s title is derived from a sonnet Keats wrote to Fanny, “Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—” and he signed at least one of his letters to her “Your’s ever, fair Star…”
My daughter watched Bright Star with me and exclaimed, “It’s so sad, whether it happened three days ago or three centuries.”
Knowing the end mitigated much of the sadness for me. Instead, I was enthralled by the film’s beauty, of scenes that led me into still and lovely places, where I could hear birdsong and poetry.
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