‘Jane Eyre’ (2011): A Pretty Vision Re-Tells the Love Story


Literary scholars will have, by now, read the titular novel on which this, Jane Eyre (2011) is based, seen an adaptation or been introduced to Charlotte Bronte’s works through a modern interpretation, one of which features Jane as some sort of vampire-slayer. 

Jane Eyre (2011) Film Review

I do not count this story among my very favorites, but I do love the story because unlike other Bronte works, it does retain a happy, if not completely conclusive ending. Most reviewers in the blog scene (and I realize that I am probably the only person who hasn’t seen this but, still, I thought I’d share my thoughts) who I follow adored this adaptation. My thoughts wound up being somewhat split, but nevertheless, here they are.

‘Jane Eyre’ (2011) - A Pretty Vision Re-Tells the Love Story. A review of Jane Eyre (2011) with Michael Fassbender. Text © Rissi JC
The Faces of a Romance Adaptation: The Jane Eyre One

Since most of us know how the now iconic Bronte story plays out I won’t bore you with a synopsis. I think everyone is well acquainted with the plain, orphaned Jane and the brooding Mr. Rochester, their meeting and eventual relationship. The writers and director actually do a beautiful job with this feature film. For me, this film was a pleasant surprise. I figured I’d “like” it but didn’t plan to count it among one of my favorite adaptations. I have probably seen three versions before this, including A&E’s, Miramax’s feature film and the 1980s BBC classic. 

Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender actually make a complex, compelling on-screen couple. I thoroughly enjoyed their scenes together. There isn’t always expression and emotion funneled into the scenes, which might at times be a drawback. Most of the time there is an apparent reluctance fueling Jane’s struggle and Edward’s growing affection towards Jane is likewise conflicted. 

Notable co-stars include the always wonderful Judi Dench, Holliday Grainger (The Borgias), Imogen Potts (Miss Austen Regrets) and Tamzin Merchant (The Tudors) along with Jamie Bell whom many might remember as Smike from the Miramax version of Nicholas Nickleby. The film also has some truly beautiful moments and filming. It begins dark and morbid as many prior versions have but as Jane’s circumstances change, as she begins to experience all-consuming love, so does the scenery. Spring time comes and with it the beauty of nature. There is one particular scene that I love, all outdoors in a montage that sees Jane and Edward under the apple blossom tree, it’s so pretty.

CLASSIC ROMANTIC MOMENT | Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester

‘Jane Eyre’ (2011) – A Pretty Vision Re-Tells the Love Story. A review of Jane Eyre (2011) with Michael Fassbender. #PeriodDrama #JaneEyre Click To Tweet

I haven’t read the book, but I don’t like some of the liberties this one takes in comparison to previous adaptations. Edward’s perpetual gruffness is fine but then as a result, the charm of Adele is lost in the shuffle. I like the interaction he has with Adele in other productions. Something about these moments softened him, here, from Edward himself, we learn he “dislikes” children. I have to keep reminding myself that when writers limit themselves to a mere two hours, certain things will be shortened or cut altogether whereas a miniseries has a lot more flexibility. Even Jane and Adele don’t share a very close relationship. 

Nevertheless the script holds its own with some unique, beautiful storytelling. The beginning of the movie shifts back-and-forth between Jane’s childhood and her life following Thornfield Hall. This filming isn’t in the best interest of the story, but it only lasts about fifteen minutes whereas we don’t meet Mr. Rochester until a good twenty-some minutes have go by.

…I ask you to pass through life at my side. You are my equal, my likeness… – Mr. Rochester

My mom and I saw this version one Saturday morning, and the fact that even she likes it as a favorite next to the 80’s miniseries is saying something because she doesn’t much like the story of Jane Eyre, period. Indeed while it is a morbid tale (in case you haven’t seen a version of this, this is good to know). Despite petty grievances, I actually find this version quite charming. On impulse I decided to buy a copy, and am not sorry to have done so. The proposal scene is lovely as are some of romantic sequences between Jane and Edward. It might not seem so, but writers piece together a different take on the classic material to bring with an interesting love story between an already well-known couple. And the results impress.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

‘Jane Eyre’ (2011) - A Pretty Vision Re-Tells the Love Story. A review of Jane Eyre (2011) with Michael Fassbender. Text © Rissi JC

Jane Eyre (2011) is PG13 for “thematic elements” – there are some “scary” moments and Jane discovers she was about to marry a man who was not free to do so. Children all ill-treated at a boarding school.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Nope. You aren't the only one who hadn't seen it yet. I still haven't….waiting for my library copy to come in. It never made its way into a Boise theatre…except for one week when I was on vacation.

    Charity and I have been talking about "Jane Eyre" lately. I forget which adaptation she likes best. I have seen two, and neither of them do anything for me. Cirian Hinds doesn't work, nor does Orson Welles. (Yep. I saw a black and white version)

    Now, I love the book. It has a happy ending compared to Wuthering Heights. (Gosh, I HATE that book) And I think that is part of my problem. Favorite parts of mine are always left out and I bet it will be true with this one…but I still want to see it

    You would think that as a librarian, I would have some pull to get things faster, but alas, it is against the rules for us to trump patrons. =(

  2. Oh! I hope you can see this version soon, Ella! I'd be interested in your opinion on it – especially since you've read the book. It is something I've never gotten through. (No matter my intentions, for some reason I never get classic lit read.) My aunt loves this story (both the book and movies) and thinks the A&E adaption is best. I don't think she's right because of Ciaran Hinds – yeah, he just isn't right.

    I think Charity likes the 2006 BBC series best. I have yet to see that version but am sure its good. Next to this one, I like BBC's 80's production.

    You'd think working in a library would give you certain "perks." Guess not, huh?? Enjoy whenever you do see it… it surpassed my expectations.

  3. Edward Rochester is… rude. He's terribly blunt and horribly rude and downright cruel at times — and it was a shock for me to see him that way in this particular adaptation, because the earlier Masterpiece Theatre adaptation spoiled me in regards to Edward, since Tobey Stephens added a sense of humor and teasing to his Edward that makes him much more attractive as a character.

    Having said that, I do think Michael did a good job with this Edward, even though he doesn't quite measure up to Tobey. He fits my mental notion of what Edward looks like (many find him too handsome, but I'm not particularly attracted to this actor) — but for me, Mia cannot hold a candle to the Jane in the miniseries. Ruth put so much heart and passion and innocence and simplicity that Mia's very restrained, rather bland approach to the material could not hold a candle to it.

    I think this version was visually splendid — very beautiful (particularly the scene you noted, with the cherry tree, and the rain after the proposal) but I didn't LOVE-love it. I'm looking forward to watching it again this weekend. Perhaps a second viewing will improve my opinion of it.

    For the record, Cirian and William were both TERRIBLE Edwards. Cirian was much too angry and shout-y, and William just about put me to sleep. Is it really so hard to play him convincingly?!

    And yes, I like the Masterpiece Theatre production best. =)

  4. Jemimah – *gasp!* you’ve not seen a SINGLE version of “Jane Eyre”: goodness sakes, you’ll have to rent this one then. =D And, thank you again for giving me the blog award; it was greatly appreciated. =)

    Ella – yes, you must see this adaptation. Most of the comments are really positive and while, it isn’t “perfect,” it did surpass my minimal expectations. I’d love to read your thoughts on your blog whenever you do see it. =)

    Charity – yeah, I was kind of annoyed that Michael played Rochester so… well, rude! (Either that or the writers simply wrote him that way…?) His rudeness was most noticeable around Adele. Most versions paint him gruff anyway but he normally always “likes” young Adele.

    I know, visually, the film was stunning, although my mom always thinks it’s “too dark” of a story in general. Still, I really noticed the changes as Jane’s feelings began to blossom into love. In that regard, filmmakers did a marvelous job. I’ll have to see the Masterpiece adaptation yet, but all in all, I was impressed with this feature film.

    William Hurt and Ciaran Hinds – the former is MUCH better than the latter in my opinion, but then I’ve not seen either version in a long time so perhaps it is time for a “Jane Eyre” marathon. =)

    Enjoy the 2011 version the second time around – I hope your opinion of it improves somewhat.

    I am loving reading all of your opinions. =)

  5. If I remember right (it's been a long time since I read the book), Edward is not really all that fond of Adele — he reluctantly took her in because no one else would, and Jane often gets on his case for saying nasty things about Adele (how silly she is, for example) in Adele's presence. Edward is a very… complicated character. I'd say more, but I'll let you read about him in the next webzine. ;)

    "Jane Eyre" (the Hurt version) was my first introduction into Victorian Gothic Literature, and I loved it… but some people don't like such morbid tales. My mother has seen all of them (minus this one, thus far) and she liked the miniseries best since it didn't seem as "dark," but in general she doesn't care for Bronte — or Dickens, either. I enjoy the symbolism of the story, the contrast of her light and his darkness, and the way Bronte references blindness so often, as a foreshadowing of what is to come.

    Lovely story, though, in my opinion — and it's been on my mind a lot over the last couple of weeks, I suppose because the movie has stirred interest and made more people bring it up than usual!

    Cirian I enjoy in other projects, but… he was very unlikable as Edward. And I've never liked William Hurt. At the risk of sounding dreadful, I think he's a horrible actor with a monotone voice who couldn't drum up an ounce of passion if his life depended on it — kind of like John Malcovich. =P

  6. Well, if that is the way that Edward is written in the book, then perhaps Michael did a better job than I gave him credit for! I think having Edward actually semi-like Adele gave him a kindness (although, no he wasn't thrilled with the idea of taking her in), and former actors added that touch.

    The William Hurt version was probably my 2nd version of "Jane Eyre." I must confess though, I don't know that I've seen the famed actor in anything else. Ciaran is FABULOUS in a number of other roles – "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," "Mayor of Casterbridge," "Nativity Story" and so on, but with Rochester, he just isn't right. (Although my aunt LOVES the A&E version; it's funny because one aunt claims the 80's BBC one is closest to the book and my other one says the A&E is the best.)

    My mom likes Dickens (one of her favorites is "Martin Chuzzlewit") but she doesn't like "Jane Eyre" either. I am constantly telling her that she should because it has a happy ending, but it just isn't her favorite classic. Oh, well! That just means I have to watch the versions by myself.

    I'll look forward to your piece in the fall issue of Charity's Tude – October cannot get here soon enough. =)

  7. Do you enjoy listening to musicals? If so, I should really send you a copy of "Jane Eyre, the Musical." There comes a point when you are so wrapped up in the story that you forget you are listening to something instead of watching it. I had it on the other day and it was tugging at my heart. It sounds weird to say an audio version is my favorite adaptation but… it's the truth.

    My initial assumption about Edward was that he had some merit for doing semi-kind things (like taking in Adele, or taking care of his wife)… but in reality he did them out of resentment-filled duty, so his attitude kind of undermines the good he is doing. He really is a bear until Jane's love (and her decision to leave him) changes him for the better.

    The best acting I have seen out of William Hurt (and I've seen him in a lot of things) is probably in the recent "Moby Dick." That part suited him really well. But yeah, Cirian is great in "Miss Pettigrew." I think I like him most in that, actually.

    Time, it flies. October will be here before either of us know it. (And hurrah for when it does arrive — the pumpkins! the scented fall air? apple cider!)

  8. I've not seen "Moby Dick," but did see that you reviewed it. I have probably seen William Hurt in SOMETHING, but it wasn't very memorable if that is the case. Isn't Ciaran just wonderul in "Miss Pettigrew"?? I really like him in that role – so different from the norm.

    Hmm… musicals on audio… I don't think I've heard a musical but several years ago, I did listen to "David Copperfield" on CD's and my family really enjoyed the cold winter nights listenting to young David's story come alive.

    Jane's leaving was obviously the best thing that could have happened to Edward since he apparently needed that "jolt" to make him a better man. One of these days I should pick up the book and read it… but, oh wait! Borders is closing – how COULD they!? LOL!

    Fall… I. Cannot. Wait! =)

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