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Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Judi Dench, Jamie Bell, Sally Hawkins, Amelia Clarkson, Simon McBurney, Romy Setbon Moore, Freya Parks, Imogen Poots, Harry Lloyd, Sophie Ward
Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga
In with a much better (if not perfect) North Country accent than Anne Hathaway in One Day, Wasikowska, of Alice in Wonderland fame, proves a remarkable Jane Eyre in this new version of Charlotte Bronte's tale of repression and devotion.
The casting must have seemed a gamble, but it was inspired: Wasikowska is the perfect Jane, looking the right age but not too pretty, with hair dyed mousy brown and figure disappeared under an assortment of dowdy Victorian costumes. This careful, charismatic performance could well win the Australian-born actress an Oscar nomination and obliterates even the memory of Joan Fontaine in the classic version of 1943.
This hasn't perhaps the seething intensity of the Orson Welles film, but the stifling atmosphere of Thornfield is well captured, and for once the low-key dominance of greys and browns seems justified. Fassbender is fine, if left trailing in the star's wake, as the tortured Mr Rochester, and Bell more frighteningly fanatical as St John Rivers than previous incarnations. Poots has hardly anything to do as Blanche Ingram, but Dame Judi, below stairs for once, is a comforting presence as Mrs Fairfax.
The story will be familiar to all but a few: Jane, an orphan, is maltreated by her aunt Reed (an almost unrecognisable Hawkins) and packed off to the repressive and hideous Lowood School (run by the ubiquitous McBurney), where she somehow survives, to become governess to the French daughter (Moore) of the embittered Rochester at the castle-like Thornfield Hall.
It is rather too long - a trim of 10 minutes would have been ideal - but our attention is held throughout by the grave countenance of the star, reserved but forthright when needed, allowing us to see the emotions beneath the surface and, of course, falling for Mr Rochester, who has a dark secret that will threaten their future. An Oscar nomination would indeed not be undeserved.
UK 2011. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.
Review date: 07 Sep 2011