Jane Campion, who's wowed film fans and critics for years with movies like Sweetie, The Piano, and The Portrait of a Lady, came back with a fierceness at this year's Cannes with Bright Star, an elegant retelling of the love affair between John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). The film shows the doomed relationship from Brawne's point of view; an outspoken and creative young woman with a flair for fashion and not much of a passion for Romantic poetry, Brawne becomes enamored of her neighbor much to the disapproval of her mother and his churlish friend, fellow writer Charles Brown (Paul Schneider). Unfortunately, their love remains rather celibate, relegated to holding hands and writing letters. Keats died at 25, unsuccessful and poor, from tuberculosis.

Overall the consensus from Cannes was that Jane Campion's first full-length movie since 2003's In the Cut was a strong contender in a number of Oscar categories, including best film and director. Since then, Bright Star has practically dropped from sight, unlike other little-films-that-could like An Education, which has benefited from more word-of-mouth buzz and the backing of a slightly larger, more established studio. (Bright Star's US distributor is Apparition, which was launched in August.)


Both Whishaw and Cornish put in fantastic performances, especially Cornish, who deftly portrays an intelligent woman chafing under the strictures of society. With a strong cast, Campion's subtle but affecting script, and unforgettable scenes of beauty, you'd think it's tailor made for fans of art films and period pieces, but for some reason it never quite caught on. Some female critics (including me and Monika Bartyzel) responded to the Golden Globe nominations over at Women and Hollywood and why Bright Star might or might not have been overlooked, but more importantly, why has it been overlooked by audiences? Was it too slow? Not sexy enough? Overshadowed by slicker, flashier releases this December?

Have you seen Bright Star? Let me know what you think in the comments.