Bright Star is a quiet film, which is fitting the early 19th century, before music and industrial noise became ever present. Why should a love scene between Keats and Brwane swell with what was not possible? The silence, too, is befitting the romantic contemplation, a quiet amongst nature. With the panoramic beauty, the flowers blooming in the the meadows, the winds amongst the reeds as the only sounds, Bright Star is a Romantic film that not only quotes Keats, but wants to be Keats, or at least his representation, a poem. And in this sense the film succeeds, though the contemplation and lack of music can be as jarring as if the music were playing at twice the usual volume: absence can be as powerful as presence.
Bright Star is also a romance between Keats and Fanny Brawne and the film navigates the early 19th century’s formality and class structures with the same contemplation that places a flower as the object of affection, but one that is inquiry and strangely requires a distance to fully enjoy it. The scenes between the two characters build as the romance grows and the distance of affection dissipates, but between those moments of affection the stiffness in manners reappears.
The effect, then, is a film that is at once Romantic, celebrating the power in nature to animate the spirit, and yet lives in a world of distances both in terms of the characters, and those of an audience used to the sounds of modern films. It is those distances that make the film feel slow. What is really in play, though, is not plot or charter development, of which there is ample, but the closest attempt to make a bio-pic not only tell the story, but reflect the essence of the are those characters represent. Bright Star clearly reaches that level and it doesn’t really matter what the verisimilitude of the film is, which is a refreshing thing since so often bio-pics are little more than a TV movie of the week.