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Movie Review: Bright Star

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One tries to be objective when reviewing a film, but the reality is that you bring every moment of your life into a movie theater and some of those moments affect how you judge what you see. For me, Bright Star is tortuous to review because I've been reading anything by and about John Keats since college. From his childhood in London to the death of his parents and brother to his troubled relationship with his guardian to his time as a surgeon to his rapid growth as a poet to his early death in Rome -- every element of his life is always present in my mind. How then to judge a film which reduces that life to an unrequited, frantic love affair?

Director Jane Campion makes a choice in the first moments of Bright Star that -- depending on your perspective -- either reduces or refreshes the film: she tells Keats' story through the eyes of his muse, Fanny Brawne. Depending on what history you read, Fanny was either a shallow, flirty tart or a misunderstood woman who truly loved the great poet. Naturally, Campion settles on the latter. Brawne meets and falls in love with Keats and the two embark on a doomed affair ended by Keats' death from tuberculosis. The film is skillfully crafted and keenly acted, but Campion's choice renders profound material into a period soap opera.