Another classic novel that has had many film versions made of it; I’ve only ever watched the 2011 film, and that was due to the cast. Mia Wasikowska (opposite Johnny Depp in Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland movies) is the titular Jane Eyre. Michael Fassbender (young Erik Lensher/Magneto from the prequel X-Men films) is Mr. Rochester. Judi Dench is Mrs. Fairfax. Holliday Grainger (we saw her in Disney’s live-action Cinderella movie as one of the stepsisters) is Diana Rivers alongside Tamzin Merchant (Georgiana Darcy) as her sister Mary Rivers. And if Mr. Brocklehurst, the overseer of that horrid boarding school looks familiar, he is played by Simon McBurney. He wasn’t terribly nice as Father Tancred in Robin Hood and not exactly nice as Charles Fox in The Duchess. Harry Lloyd (Will Scarlet in BBC’s Robin Hood series, Viserys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, and he appeared in two episodes of Doctor Who as well during David Tennat’s tenure) is Richard Mason. This film did encourage me to read the novel and it wasn’t too bad. Charlotte Brontë is not an author I will rush to read more of, but I see why it is renowned.
The film jumps around the timeline; we begin with Jane running away, laying down and crying when she sinks to the depths of despair, and being taken in by the Rivers, headed by their brother John. Then Jane recalls her childhood, brought up in her aunt’s house after the death of her parents and uncle. Her aunt cannot stand to have her in the house, so makes it out that she is a wretched child and sends her to a boarding school that encourages beating the girls. Jane makes one friend, who comments that Jane is surrounded by an invisible kingdom of spirits. Sadly, the other girl dies. When we jump back to the present, Jane is looking for work. John Rivers finds her a small parish school and Jane recalls fondly her farewell from school and her beginning at Thornfield Hall.
The house is kept by Mrs. Fairfax and Jane is the new governess for Mr. Rochester’s ward, a young French girl, Adele. Jane settles into Thornfield rather well, but still wishes for some adventure. Mrs. Fairfax sends her on an errand, and Jane manages to startle a man and his horse on the road. When Jane returns to the house, she discovers the injured man is her master, Mr. Rochester. Rochester asks if she was looking for her people, the fairies. He is intrigued by Jane and they speak frankly with each other. He toils alongside his help, but is changeable. One night, Jane hears something outside her door. She goes to investigate and discovers smoke in Rochester’s room and saves him from being burned alive. He thanks her, but also cautions her to say nothing. The next morning, he has left again. Then abruptly returns with wealthy guests. Mrs. Fairfax surmises that he will propose to Miss Ingram soon.
After enduring the wealthy guests, Jane leaves the drawing room. Rochester follows, but their conversation is interrupted by a visitor from Jamaica, Mr. Richard Mason. Rochester oddly asks Jane if she would remain his friend even if he faced disgrace. She would. Richard greets Rochester warmly and the two men speak. Jane is woken that night by a scream, as are the other guests. Rochester sends them back to bed, but asks for Jane’s help. She is to keep an eye on Mr. Mason while Rochester fetches the doctor; Mason has been stabbed. But both are ordered to not speak to each other. Jane discovers a hidden door in Rochester’s room, but the man returns before she can investigate further.
Come daylight, Rochester opens up to Jane about a woman who revives him. Jane believes he speaks of Miss Ingram. In truth, “what would Jane Eyre do to secure my happiness?” He tucks a small flower in her hair. Later, news comes that Jane’s cousin has committed suicide and her aunt requests she return home. Jane acquiesces, only for her aunt to reveal that she lied to Jane’s other uncle when he inquired of her whereabouts, wishing to bequeath his estate. Jane returns to Thornfield Hall in good spirits, though she is greeted by the rumor of Rochester’s engagement to Miss Ingram. She informs him she will seek a job elsewhere. She and Rochester share a confusing conversation about their souls before Rochester asks her plainly to be his wife. The sun shines brightly and the couple are happy.
Unfortunately, their happy day is interrupted by Richard Mason again. Rochester pulls Jane back to Thornfield and reveals that behind the hidden door is a hidden room containing his wife, Bertha, Richard’s sister. He had married her fifteen years prior in Jamaica, but she turned wild. Jane returns to her room and removes her wedding gown. Rochester pleads with her that night, but she will not marry him while he is married to Bertha. She flees come morning, bringing us back to the beginning. Rochester’s shout of “Jane” echoes through the rest of the film.
Jane imagines in her little cottage that Rochester has been searching for her and finds her, planting a searing kiss on her. Sadly, no, ’tis only John Rivers with news of Jane’s uncle. He has since passed and left her a considerable inheritance. Jane desires to share the money with the Rivers who were kind enough to save her life. But John wants more than friendship and a sibling relationship. He wants her to marry him and become a missionary wife in India. She refuses to marry him and goes searching for Rochester. In her absence, Thornfield has burned. Mrs. Fairfax informs Jane that Bertha lit another fire and Rochester wouldn’t rest until everyone had been rescued. He even went back in for Bertha, but couldn’t prevent her from jumping from the roof. Jane searches for her dear Rochester. She finds him underneath a tree, now blind, but he recognizes her hands. Jane kisses him, the sun shines again, and the movie ends.
While the tale is relatively depressing most of the time, there are some rather tender moments between the two main characters. The film is well acted. We can see how Jane wants Rochester, even before she knows his feelings, without her having to say anything. Not the most romantic movie, but there are others that get me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
Next Time: Miss Potter