Jane Eyre (2011) Netflix, Amazon Instant, iTunes
The Basics: The most recent adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, a love story between an orphaned governess (Mia Wasikowska) and her brooding, mysterious boss (Michael Fassbender), set in his excessively creepy house.
If You Liked: Rebecca, True Detective
The Nugget: The future director of True Detective amps the gothic horror in his adaptation of the Victorian classic.
From the opening minutes of Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, it becomes bracingly clear that this is not a book-club version of the Brontë novel. Every frame bristles with menace: The lush countryside is a landscape of despair and almost certain death, and the dark, well-appointed sitting rooms are stages for sudden violence. While the tale has been committed to screen some two dozen times in the last 100-plus years, the man who directed all eight episodes of True Detective’s inaugural season seems to be among the first to truly get it right. This is Jane Eyre as it should be, a rough and tumble proto-feminist film noir that’s closer to a horror story than a Victorian romance.
In his second film following his 2009 debut Sin Nombre, Fukunaga is helped in large part by his casting. With her natural beauty muted as the plain Jane Eyre, Wasikowska’s wide, searching eyes seem to express flickers of every emotion at once. Fassbender, meanwhile, lends the moody Rochester a compelling vulnerability while never giving short shrift to the fact that he’s often a jerk. (Or as Jane puts it more politely, “abrupt and changeful.”) Fukanaga paints most of the film in layered shadow and rich darkness, not fully illuminating things until the film’s thrilling conclusion, where he reminds us that what we’ve been watching all along is one of the greatest romances ever told.
Photo credit: Focus Features