Bright Star is one of those films I feel I should love more, but just don't. I saw it in theaters when it came out and while I thought it looked gorgeous and the performances were uniformly excellent, it left me a bit cold. I chalked it up to my unfamiliarity with John Keats as well as Jane Campion's understated style. A recent re-watch confirmed my initial feelings despite my increased love for Ben Whishaw during the past few years as well as being a fan of Campion's recent work on television.
And yet picking a "best shot" proved almost impossible because of the film's unquestionable beauty. So I'll just briefly talk about four of my favorites shots with my eventual pick in the end.
I mentioned Campion's subdued style, but this dissolve shot is simultaneously understated and bold. It must have been tempting to put many of Keats words literally on screen, but the film waits for this moment when Fanny misses Keats so much that it makes sense for her to visualize him while she reads his words.
All of the actors are great, but Whishaw is the film's MVP for me--naturally sad, effortlessly romantic, and quietly intense. In this shot, his longing and frustrations are palpable with the love of his life so close and yet still out-of-reach.
This shot is a very close runner-up since it displays so many things I really liked about the film--the costumes, the flowers, the use of light, the touching, her penchant to be proactive, his penchant to let her.
My best shot comes from one of my favorite scenes (probably my favorite) in the film. In a film with mostly subdued feelings, this particular scene is electric with emotions, mostly from Whishaw, who leaves behind understated Keats for this glorious moment of unbridled passion. Abbie Cornish also plays Fanny uncharacteristically here choosing to remain mostly silent instead. In the meantime, Brown, comically and villainously played by Paul Schneider, is in top form. I could've picked any shot from this scene, but I chose this one, because I love that all of their faces are obscured. It's as if they all just couldn't look one other from all of the deep emotions they're all feeling in this moment.