Bright Star

Imagine my excitement to hear about the release of a new Jane Campion (The Piano) movie about John Keats‘s doomed love. Bright Star was scheduled for release Friday Sept 18. A new movie set in the Regency era, by an intelligent filmaker. Hooray!
Then I was immediately cast down because Bright Star’s “limited release” did not include the Washington, DC area. Pooh.

But this looks like a wonderful film. It tells the story of Keats’s love affair with his neighbor in Hampstead, Fanny Brawne, doomed from the start by her need to marry well, his poverty and, of course, the illness that would tragically take his life at 25. The actors playing Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny look gorgeous and the performance by the actress playing Fanny (Abbie Cornish) is said to be Emmy-worthy.

Here’s the Movie Trailer:

I confess that I knew little of Keats, except that he wrote wonderful poetry and he died young. I remember coming across a plaque near the Spanish Steps in Rome marking the residence where he died. This was years ago when I’d visited Rome and had not even started writing Regency or become obsessed by the era and all its characters.

Keats suffered scathing reviews in the London press, but probably because he was associated with Leigh Hunt, who in 1813 was imprisoned for criticizing the Prince Regent. It is such a shame Keats’s work was not more appreciated in his lifetime. It is so beautiful.

Here is the poem inspired by Fanny Brawne that gave the movie its title:

Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death

Keats contracted tuberculosis, known then as consumption, the illness that took the lives of his mother and brother. From his medical studies he knew from the sight of the first drop of blood what he would face. He died in Rome, his friend Severn at his side.

It seems fitting to end my blog with the beginning of Keats’s Ode to Autumn:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

Are you in a city showing Bright Star? Have you seen it? Tell us, please!
What is your favorite poem by Keats?
Do you think you could write a Regency-set Romance with a poet as a hero?

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13 years ago

Sounds like a movie I’d love to watch. Never heard of it… Thanks for the info 😉

Deb Marlowe
13 years ago

I second Emmanuelle, Diane–Thanks for the heads up! I’ll have to go check to see if it is coming here, but if not D.C. then where?

I’ve read a couple of poets before, but I’ve never thought about writing one. I think a man can definitely be masculine and artistic.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

I know it was showing in New York City, Deb. I didn’t try any other zip codes, though. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t get a wider release.

Some of my friends have seen the Preview in DC area theatres.

Jane Austen
13 years ago

I read about this movie the other day and thought it sounded interesting, but didn’t think that it might not come to a theatre near me. I did hear that Abby Cornish gave an Oscar worthy performance. Maybe if she does get Oscar buzz it will get a larger release?

Maybe you should write your senator and demand they bring the movie to DC.

Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

I heard something about it on NPR the other day. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s showing in Seattle, but I so rarely get to see movies in the theater these days that I figured I’d just wait for the DVD regardless.

I couldn’t write a romance with a poet hero because to do it creditably I’d have to write some poetry for him. Not gonna happen. Now, I could make him a man who thinks he’s a gifted poet but is actually dreadful at it…

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
13 years ago

I plan on seeing this weekend Diane. One of the good things about living in NY.

Beth Elliott
13 years ago

Thank you for the clip, Diane, it is something I MUST see. I’ll look out for the film[movie] on this side of the pond.
Keats is one of my two favourite poets and the poem I most love is ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. Even just writing the title sends a shiver down my spine.

I’ve just started writing a Regency novel with a bad boy hero. His only redeeming feature is his loyalty to his old schoolfriend, Ned, who is a poet. whether Ned will get a story of his own after this one, I don’t know yet.

13 years ago

I’m longing to see it but it hasn’t been released yet here. Meanwhile, I’ve already posted about it twice in my blog. I hope it will have a proper distribution here in Italy.

Amanda McCabe
13 years ago

It isn’t here yet (of course), but I have read raves about it from the Toronto Festival! Keats is my very favorite of the Romantic poets (plus the costumes look very intriguing) so I will definitely be seeing it when I can. 🙂

I also saw “Young Victoria” will finally be out in November! Looks like a wonderful fall movie schedule!

13 years ago

I would LOVE to see this. I know it will not come to were I live. I really do not like how soooo many great films are only limited realease not everyone who would go to them are living in NY or LA. I will just have to wait till Netflix gets it.

Janet Mullany
13 years ago

I heard about this the other day too and was also very excited. The problem with DC is that we don’t have an indie movie theater–difficult to believe, but the last one closed its doors some years ago. I’ve been rereading Passion by Jude Morgan (bigtime favorite book) which includes the poignant story of Fanny and Keats’ love affair.

I’d go for a poet hero. I’ve had several poet secondary characters (usually ludicrous and/or impossibly horny).

Jane Austen
13 years ago


I love Jude Morgan as well. Passion was my first, but I think An Accomplished Woman is my favorite. I like how it’s similar to Persuasion.

Kit Donner
13 years ago

I can’t wait to see the film! Keats is my all-time favorite poet. My favorite poem of his is “The Eve of St. Agnes.” It’s such a romantic story. I hope the film comes to the Philly burbs. Thanks for writing about Keats. I hadn’t thought about writing a hero poet, but maybe you’ve got something there…

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Maybe you should write your senator and demand they bring the movie to DC.

Yeah, Jane Austen, they’ve nothing else to do, after all.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

All I can say is, thank goodness for DVDs!
(although I still haven’t watched North and South…)

Jane Austen
13 years ago

I know that Congress has a lot to do, but they seem to not be doing much of anything except demanding apologies.

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

I am likely going to see it next week with Liz Maverick. Yay!

I will report in.

My intheprocessofrevising ms has a book of John Donne’s poems as an integral part of the plot–I could see writing a poet hero, but I tend to go for the dissolute lords, usually.

13 years ago

@ Janet: Yes, DC does have an independent theatre — the Avalon. It’s in northwest DC just south of Chevy Chase Circle, so only a few blocks from Maryland but definitely in the District. It has lovely little film festivals (French films once a month, Czech films also, right now it’s showing a movie called Teza, by an Ethiopian filmmaker who now lives in DC). I’ve seen lots of independent films there plus that’s where I saw Julie & Julia (they have to support the little movies with big ones occasionally).

@ Jane Austen: If only those of us who live in the District proper had a senator to complain to. Unfortunately, we don’t. Definitely taxation without representation — and here I thought we’d had a revolution to end that.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Elizabeth and Megan, I am all envy that you will get to see the movie!

Susan/DC, boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure I could do a poet hero–for the same reason that Susan Wilbanks said. Not if I had to write poetry.

Although in my Creative Writing class (when I started writing)I wrote a sonnet about depression. That was so much fun!!!

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I had no idea the film was being made! Squeee! Of course it is not showing anywhere near me. I will keep an eye out for it and I know I will want it on DVD when it comes out.

Everyone knows my penchant for Byron, but Keats is also a great favorite of mine.

I love all of his poetry, but my favorite passage is probably this one from Endymion.



A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

Hmm. I think a macho, brooding, dark hero who writes beautiful poetry in secret would be a great hero to write. As with everyone else, the difficulty would be in producing said poetry. Sigh!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Louisa, O Doggie One, that is such a classic and beautiful verse. Can you believe the reviewers panned this verse?

13 years ago

I saw it yesterday with my mother-in-law, both of us poetry majors when we were in school, and we both LOVED it. It is so beautifully shot, the actors are fantastic, and the story is extra compelling because you know what’s going to happen. I recommend it highly!!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Oh, zh, I’m so envious! The good news is one theatre near me IS showing it. Now if I can only get there before it leaves!

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