Australian Council on Children and the Media

Bright Star

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Short takes

Not recommended under 13, PG to 15 (Themes and lack of interest)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Bright Star
  • a review of Bright Star completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 December 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not recommended due to themes and lack of interest
Children 13-14 Parental guidance recommended due to themes
Children 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Bright Star
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length 119 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This is the story about the love affair between the poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) are neighbours. Fanny is an accomplished seamstress from a family with reasonable means and John is a struggling poet whose first book was not well reviewed. As neighbours they meet socially and initially dislike each other. She does not understand poetry and he thinks she spends her time idly sewing.

When not writing, much of John’s time is spent nursing his younger brother Tom (Olly Alexander) who is dying of TB or as it was then known, consumption.  Fanny makes some food for Tom and John invites her to accompany him on a visit to deliver this in the hope that it will cheer up his brother. Through this experience and others Fanny and John develop a liking for each other that turns into a strong and passionate love affair.

This affair is marred by two factors. Fanny’s mother (Kerry Fox) though a reasonable woman is not happy about the attachment and does not feel that they can marry as John is poor with no means of support. John Keats lives with his good friend Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider) who is also not keen on the relationship as he feels that Fanny is simply flirting with John and does not take their relationship seriously. He feels that she may interfere with their writing and also to an extent he is jealous of her relationship with John.

The relationship between Fanny and John is doomed, however, as John contracts TB as did his mother and brother.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death and grief

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • An argument between John and his friend over Fanny

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Fanny is distraught when she hears of John’s death. She collapses crying loudly and saying to her mother that she can’t breath. This may upset some children of this age.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scene and also by the illness of Tom and then John, particularly the coughing and blood-soaked cloths which are shown

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film although they may be upset by John’s death and Fanny’s grief.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this film including:

  • John’s friend suggests that he should just “bed” Fanny.
  • A maid becomes pregnant by Brown and they go away and return with their baby.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • In several scenes John and Fanny kiss and hold hands and sit or lie down together.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Some wine drinking with a meal

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

Bright Star is a slow moving period romance which focuses on dialogue and scenery. It explores the relationship between the two main characters and also the social mores of the time. It is the director Jane Campion’s partially fictional account of this real life romance.

The movie highlights the importance of loyalty in families and in other relationships.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Fanny’s mother was unhappy about the romance between John and Fanny but she was still able to have him to dinner and treat him in a civil and affectionate manner. She showed tolerance and fairness.
  • Poverty
  • The effects of the death of a young person

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