What is the one image you remember from reading Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre? Got it? Well, it’s missing from this latest adaptation. Which is curious, because otherwise the movie is an exhaustive attempt to capture nearly every element from the brooding, 1847 novel. Jane’s childhood as an orphan reluctantly raised by wealthy relatives; her youth in a rigid girls’ school; her governess years – and romantic blossoming – under the tempestuous eye of Mr. Rochester; the disaster that struck there; and her flight to the home of a country pastor and his two sisters. It’s all here, even if only for one or two scenes. (Poor Helen Burns dies mere minutes after we’ve met her.) So completists can’t complain, yet what’s missing is any thematic focus. This Jane Eyre has no identity as its own film. There are hints that director Cary Fukunaga is going to emphasize the spookiness of the tale – he favors misty, dank landscapes – yet he neglects countless opportunities along these lines, including that image I’m thinking of: Jane’s veil being torn in the middle of the night by the mysterious denizen of Rochester’s mansion. Bronte served a cinema-ready scene for future filmmakers on a silver platter; it borders on impudence to not include it. With Mia Wasikowska as Jane, Michael Fassbender as Rochester and Jamie Bell as St. John, the country pastor.
Fair warning: the mustaches are not ironic