'Star,' Keats' Short Love Story, a Thing of Beauty

Article excerpt

Byline: Kelly Jane Torrance, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

John Keats was one of the first figures whose inspired work and tragic life paved the way for the celebrity culture we live in today; he helped put the romantic in Romanticism.

So it's surprising that Hollywood has taken this long to put his life on film. Well, not Hollywood exactly. New Zealander Jane Campion The Piano ) has written and directed Bright Star, which was made in England with an international cast.

It certainly feels like a Hollywood film, though, albeit one with intelligence. The focus here is not on Keats' poetry or philosophy but rather his doomed romance with next-door neighbor Fanny Brawne.

The sumptuous film opens in Hampstead, near London, in 1818. The Brawnes have an illustrious new neighbor, the promising young poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw). Fanny (Abbie Cornish) designs and sews her own clothes and prepares a virginal white number in which to meet him.

She's not intimidated by his genius. My stitchings have more admirers than the scribblings of the two of you put together. And I can make money from it, she boasts to Keats and his wealthier friend, Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider).

Fanny picks up a copy of his just-published epic, Endymion, and is entranced from the first line: A thing of beauty is a joy for ever. Keats seems entranced from his first glance. The usual barriers rise between the couple - her mother (Kerry Fox) doesn't wish her to become attached to a penniless poet, while his friend doesn't wish the penniless poet to become attached to a woman.

You'll be slaving at medicine for 15 hours a day, Brown says to the former physician's apprentice. And for what? To keep Mrs. Keats in French ribbon.

These considerations aren't what separate the pair, though; tuberculosis does. Keats is dying, and he must decide whether to stay in England with his beloved and probably die, or seek the better climes of Italy without her - and probably die.

Bright Star is a beautiful film, filled with the glories of nature and man that inspired Keats. …