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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Jane Eyre

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Mia Wasikowska stars as the title character in the romantic drama "Jane Eyre."
Charlotte Bronte's classic novel gets the horror film treatment in "Jane Eyre" (Focus), an adaptation that remains true to the original story but ramps up the gothic and scary elements. Creepiness aside, this is a well-acted film that recreates a bygone era when individuality took a back seat to convention, and the weather was very wet indeed.

Mia Wasikowska, recently seen in the role of Alice wandering aimlessly through Wonderland, plays another lost soul in a strange place as the title character here. Told in flashback, the film opens to find young Jane (Amelia Clarkson) a 10-year-old orphan consigned to the "care" of her uncle's family where she's abused and unloved.

But Jane is no pushover, and her independent streak, strong character, and personal piety sustain her through the multiple miseries that are to come.

Jane is sent to a religious boarding school, where the mistreatment continues; it's a fire-and-brimstone place where frequent mortifications are seen as the way to purge the body of sin. Needless to say, the prevailing Protestant Christianity is depicted as more repressive than uplifting. But Jane's faith never wavers, focusing on God himself, not on his whip-wielding minister.

Jane endures until she is old enough to take a position as governess at Thornfield Hall, home of the enigmatic Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender). He falls for Jane quite literally, tumbling off his bewitched horse when he first encounters her on a country lane. But it's hardly love at first sight, since Rochester harbors demons that are gradually revealed in due course.

Jane focuses on her work, teaching Adele Varens (Romy Settbon Moore), a young French girl in Rochester's care, while trying to understand the eccentricities of her spiritually tormented employer. Her guide and confidante is the busybody housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax (Judi Dench, who nearly steals the film).

Thornfield Hall makes the Haunted Mansion look like child's play. Watch out for things that go bump in the night—and who's making all that racket in the attic?

Soon Rochester's bedroom is on fire, and Jane saves his life—and melts his heart. They make plans to marry. But fate, of course, has other things in store for these star-crossed lovers.

Director Cary Joji Fukunaga ("Sin Nombre") makes the most of the English settings and, especially, the gloomy weather. The moors are misty, the rain is drenching, and the wind howls, while the manor houses are forbiddingly grand and the ladies' corsets tight. The mood is appropriately claustrophobic as Jane struggles against the stiff customs and propriety of the age, all the while keeping her faith in God and upholding her moral code.

Possibly acceptable for mature teens, despite the elements listed below.

The film contains adult themes, some intense scenes of nonsexual child abuse, and an artistic nude image. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.




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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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