‘Jane Eyre’ & ‘Meek's Cutoff’

A friend coined a phrase to describe anything that is a cut above mediocrity but falls well short of excellence: “very OK.” And that’s what I would call the latest version of Jane Eyre.

Did we need another version? The stormy black-and-white chiaroscuro of the 1943 Joan Fontaine–Orson Welles semiclassic etched the horror-movie aspects of the story into our memories, while the color photography of all the BBC and Hollywood successors rendered the most melodramatic sequences bland. All credit then to director Cary Fukunaga for making clear what he found exciting in the 1847 novel. I didn’t like his 2009 debut Sin Nombre, a tale of young lovers on the run from gang warfare, but the concept of Jane Eyre as a perpetual fugitive from societal hypocrisies and an impossible lover seems to have touched a chord in him.

Indeed, the very first look we get of our heroine is when she’s in flight from the tormented squire Rochester after having discovered the terrible conjugal secret in the attic. It’s a passage that occurs three-quarters of the way through the book but here, in Moira Buffini’s intelligent screenplay, serves as a springboard to flashbacks to Jane’s childhood, youth, and developing romance with the Byron-ic brute. Fukunaga stages the opening splendidly by conveying...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.