Although Australian actress Abbie Cornish, who plays Fanny Brawne, has been in the press for her personal life, and appeared in a few American films (Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Stop Loss), Bright Star is really her film, and her entree into stardom. Apparently Brawne was quite the talented seamstress and fashionista, notorious in Hampstead for her outfits and accessories. Campion does a fantastic job illuminating the similarities between Brawne's needlework and the business of writing poetry, but, brilliantly gives us the most insight into Fanny's character when in response to being made-fun of for her vestments, Fanny responds "my needlework is better than your poems - and I can make money at it!"
But it's inevitable that Fanny and Keats will fall in love - they live right next door to each other, and are drawn together through their extraordinary interests and temperaments. Bright Star has nothing of the sugary sentiment that period films like Becoming Jane and the disgusting remake of Pride & Prejudice stand on. Bright Star is all about impressions, feeling, and the transitory nature of love. Fanny and Keats can never really be together: he has no means to support her, his friends despise her for taking up his time to write when really she is the only reason he finds the inspiration to write again after the death of his younger brother.
This film will not receive the attention it deserves, so if you have the chance to see it I highly recommend you take it. There is something infinitely intimidating about the fact that Keats accomplished so much when he barely made it into adulthood. This film emphasizes the beauty of the moment and of love, which when it pronounces itself, must be embarked on wholeheartedly. One never knows when these moments will end. John and Fanny's union is perhaps finally given the acknowledgment it deserves in this film, forever reflected in Keats' poems, including the one which Campion draws her title, which Keats wrote shortly after becoming engaged to Brawne in 1819.
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 priestlike 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 stedfast, 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.