A quick check of IMDB reveals that Jane Eyre has been made no less than 22 times since the advent of film; the earliest was in 1910. Charlotte Brontë wrote the classic from which it has been adapted in 1847 and it has been a must read ever since. But does it really need one more interpretation? The last time it was remade was in 1996 and starred William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg. I saw that one, too, but I’d say the new one is much better, which leads me to say, yes, we do need a new one every few years for the people who don’t know this story.

Jane Eyre is the story of a headstrong young girl in the mid-1800s who is orphaned, taken in by a mean aunt, abused by her and her children, then sent to a horrible boarding school for more abuse, and then upon graduation takes a position as a governess to the ward of a wealthy, handsome lord of the manor, Mr. Rochester. Though she is plain, he falls for her, but he has a secret that makes their wedded bliss impossible. If you’ve lived under a rock, or somehow missed those 22 previous iterations, read no further.

++++++SPOILER ALERT+++++

Seems there is a insane wife living in the attic who he married many years ago just to please his father and now she is the proverbial albatross around his neck. But he is not going let that one niggling detail hinder him in his quest to marry poor Jane, that is until his cuckoo wife’s brother shows up to stop the wedding. Jane had an inkling there was something up when she heard howling from the upstairs quarters and maybe she should have asked a few more questions when someone sneaked into Mr. Rochester’s room one night and set the place ablaze. But as we all know, love blinds us to the most obvious impediments to our true happiness.

Jane is played by actress of the moment, Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right) who gives the role great depth. Unlike the previous women who have come into Mr. Rochester’s life, Jane Eyre speaks her mind and what a fine mind it is. Mr. Rochester is played by chameleon actor Michael Fassbender who I did not initially recognize, but on looking him up realized he has been all over the place right in front of me (Inglourious Basterds, Band of Brothers.) He plays Rochester with just the right mix of arrogant and earnest, so you can see why Jane would fall for him. And Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper and Jane’s only confidant is played by the always wonderful Judi Dench, not a huge role, but she owns the screen when she is on it.

There is nothing new about the story (and why should there be?) but the telling is strengthened in this version by intensely moody cinematography; many scenes seem to be shot with existing light making you strain as the people living then did to see just beyond the candlelight. And the central theme of Jane’s isolation is made even more powerful through the use of extremely wide shots of remote, unpopulated landscapes. If you’ve seen any of the previous versions, you may notice added or subtracted scenes, but the central story remains the same and it is a doozy. I’d recommend this for a good chicks night out or for roosters who want to show their chicks that they have a romantic side. It is a classic love story done right.

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