Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Jane Eyre (2006)

DVD Box Art
I know, the last review I did was for Jane Eyre (2011) (granted, a long time ago), so you're getting two Jane Eyre reviews in a row. But I had been curious about this version despite its content issues. This one was not available on Netflix, but it was uploaded on YouTube, so I watched it there. This would be Jane Eyre Version #5 that I've seen, so I have plenty of other adaptations to compare to, which can be both a good and a bad thing. On the upside, there is plenty to compare to and any unique aspects of this miniseries would be easily recognizable. The bad side: I already have ideas on how adaptations of Jane Eyre should be (but not that's ever stopped me before). From reading around on other period drama blogs, the impression I had of this version before viewing it all the way through was that the major objection to this version was the content, but that the rest was pretty good, so I tried to keep an eye out for scenes that might have content issues (which did detract from my enjoyment of the miniseries, to be honest) but at the same time watch and see how this adaptation presented the story.

(Synopsis taken from my review of Jane Eyre (1983) )
Young Jane Eyre, an orphan, lives with her rich but cruel Aunt, Mrs. Reed and her cousins at Gateshead Hall until Mrs. Reed sends her away to Lowood School to be educated and be rid of her. Ten years after receiving an education and without connections, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall to young Adele Varens, the ward of Thornfield's master, Mr. Edward Rochester. Thornfield itself holds many secrets and Mr. Rochester is very mysterious and strange, but Jane eventually falls in love with him.

There are a couple of familiar period drama faces in Jane Eyre:

Actor/ActressCharacterAlso Seen In
Toby StephensMr. RochesterTenant of Wildfell Hall (1996) as Gilbert Markham
Aiden McArdleJohn EshtonMr. Selfridge as Lord Loxley
Pam FerrisGrace PooleLittle Dorrit (2008) as Mrs. General
Francesca AnnisLady IngramWives and Daughters (1999) as Hyacinth Gibson
Christina ColeBlanche IngramEmma (2009) as Mrs. Elton
Georgia KingRosamond OliverLittle Dorrit (2008) as Pet Meagles
Georgie HenleyYoung Jane EyreChronicles of Narnia as Lucy Pevensie

And an interesting fact: Toby Stephens is actually the son of Maggie Smith, known throughout the period drama world for various roles (and wow! does he look like his mother!).

Overall, this is a fairly accurate adaptation of the novel, though it does have it's quirks. The section of the story about Lowood is fairly short, and if you didn't know the story, you might not even know who Helen Burns, Jane's friend at Lowood, is from watching this miniseries. The bulk of the story is focused on Jane's time at Thornfield and her relationship with Mr. Rochester, which would make sense since the bulk of the novel itself focuses on the same thing. There is more time devoted to the part of the story where Jane stays with the Rivers Family(though some details have been changed); many adaptations of Jane Eyre rush through this portion of the novel, so it was nice to see a version that devoted a decent amount of time to that part of the novel.

Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre
I had some mixed feelings about Ruth Wilson's Jane (though probably more positive than negative). She did a pretty good job as Jane except for a couple of "extra" things that were completely out of character. On the plus side, she wasn't too quiet (unlike Mia Wasikowska's Jane); though Jane is supposed to be a timid character and probably should have some quietness about her, there is that strong nature in the character that doesn't completely make her a quiet mouse. Ruth Wilson did this pretty well; she didn't seem like she was afraid to speak up. However, there are some negatives about Ruth Wilson's Jane, though this could be the script/directors/etc.; for one thing, there were some things that the Jane in the book would never have done (I'll get into that part in more detail soon). This version also doesn't really show Jane's religious side; in the book, her moral decision making was based upon God and her beliefs, but this version doesn't really get into it much. Aside from those reservations, however, Ruth Wilson was a good Jane overall.

Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester
Was Toby Stephens a decent Mr. Rochester? Yes, he was pretty decent. He still annoyed me at times (I didn't care for his voice), but he was still pretty good. But was he the perfect Mr. Rochester? No. Yes, his teasing nature was present with Jane, (although at the same time, it was very obvious from the start that he preferred her to everyone else; though this would explain Jane's pain seeing him giving attention to Blanche Ingram). At the same time, I found him to be a little too gruff for a gentleman. Okay, yes, Mr. Rochester is supposed to be a little rough and abrupt, but at the same time, there was this "too-gruff-even-for-a-gentleman" feel to him. His voice was very rough and raspy a lot of the time, which was the opposite of what I thought of Mr. Rochester's voice would have been. He would also make some suggestive comments to Jane which I thought pushed the limit of what a Victorian man would talk about (in detail, mind you) with a lady. So while I have some criticisms of his portrayal of Mr. Rochester, I still think Toby Stephens did a good job overall.

Now, for the chemistry between Jane and Mr. Rochester. It was there and it wasn't badly done, but sometimes it was a little too over-the-top. Granted in some ways it wasn't as bad as the numerous kissing scenes in Jane Eyre (2011) (which did get to be ridiculous), but it did push the limit for a story in the Victorian Era. As I mentioned before, Mr. Rochester does make some suggestive comments to Jane, but aside from that, there were a couple of scenes in which they acted in ways that a Victorian couple probably wouldn't have acted. For example, I don't believe the Jane Eyre in the book would have ever allowed Mr. Rochester in her room Spoiler (and especially after the discovery of Bertha) End of Spoiler no matter the persuasion -- no respectable Victorian lady would have -- let alone the particulars of the scene (which, by the way, nothing happened, but it almost could have been something had Jane been slightly weaker). Their chemistry in this version of Jane Eyre was probably the most modern I've seen in an adaptation of Jane Eyre.

Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram
Ah yes, we have yet another blonde Blanche Ingram (who in the book is supposed to have dark hair), although this really didn't bother me all that much (it never really does: it's just something I notice). Christina Cole is usually cast in these types of roles (snobby, usually rich, young ladies who are looking for a husband), so it's no surprise that if she was cast in any adaptation of Jane Eyre that she would be cast as Blanche Ingram. Probably out of all the Blanche Ingrams, I think Christina Cole did the best job (but then again, she is very good at the role).

Spoiler A part of the story that is often left out of adaptations (or only briefly shown) is the Rosamund Oliver/St. John relationship. I liked how we got to see Miss Oliver more in this version and how she was interested in St. John and how St. John explains why he doesn't want to marry her even though they love each other. It gives insight into St. John's character and makes his proposal to Jane more expected and understandable. When other adaptations leave out this part, it can make St. John's proposal seem unexpected and random, but in this adaptation, you can see that he was looking for a good missionary wife from the start, which Jane was more qualified for than Miss Oliver. Obviously, this isn't the most important part of the story, but it's a nice feature that helps explain St. John's character. End of Spoiler

The scenery was pretty much what you would expect from a BBC period drama. The colors were nice, but they weren't so bright that it wouldn't fit in with the serious story line (basically, you're not going to find the colors you would see in a Jane Austen adaptation in this miniseries, but they were still nice). Most of the plot takes place at Thornfield Hall, so we get to see a good deal of the grounds and house used.

An example of Regency Dress in Jane Eyre;
notice the Regency hair.
While the story does take place in the 1840s/1850s, there are a couple of flashback scenes that show costumes from the Regency Era. The infamous sleeveless Regency dress makes an appearance (you know, the one worn by Miss Grey in Sense and Sensibility (2008) ), but considering it was worn on Celine Varens, a French entertainer, and considering the French tended to be a little more risque than the English, I would let it slide. Spoiler Bertha Mason is shown to be wearing Regency fashions, which, given that fashions would reach the New World slowly, would place the Mason/Rochester wedding sometime in the late Regency (maybe even the early 1820s?). End of Spoiler But anyways!

Jane, in a break from what other Janes have worn in other versions of Jane Eyre, wears grey rather than black. In fact, I don't think she ever wears black. However, in the novel:
...however, I repaired to my room, and, with Mrs. Fairfax’s aid, replaced my black stuff dress by one of black silk; the best and the only additional one I had, except one of light grey, which, in my Lowood notions of the toilette, I thought too fine to be worn, except on first-rate occasions. (Chapter 13)
This would explain why the other versions of Jane Eyre had Jane wearing black, but I wonder why this one had Jane wearing grey instead of black if the Jane in the book found that her grey dress was too fancy to be worn on any occasion. Could it be a emphasis on her passionate nature? Maybe. But it was different from the original novel.

When the Ingrams come, so come the fancy dresses. All provide a contrast to the plain dresses that Jane wears. While Lady Ingram wears more darker, matronly colors, daughter Blanche is always shown in colorful and well-trimmed dresses. Though the Ingrams are looking to marry into money, they are still of a high rank where they need to dress nicely.

Overall: 3/5
It's a decent version of Jane Eyre and, for the most part, stays close to the story. However, there were some things added that didn't need to be there, especially some that turned a PG story into more of a PG-13 story. I would probably say that for the best accuracy to the story, you should probably watch the 1983 version, but if you want a more recent version that's fairly close to the story, this is a good alternative. This version is long enough so that you get a better feel for the characters than if you would watching a movie version and for the most part, everything is done well. The only bad thing about this miniseries is some of the content, but as long as you know where to skip, you can enjoy a PG-rated miniseries fairly easily with some good acting and mostly accurate story-telling.

So, this version is infamous for its content (and content that really didn't need to be there). I'll do my best to relate the parts of this miniseries that you should avoid. Generally speaking, Jane Eyre stays in the PG rating area, but this version went well into TV-14/PG-13 territory. One scene in particular made me think I was watching Shakespeare in Love (an R-rated movie: I don't recommend it). But anyways, each episode of this miniseries has at least one scene that you might want to skip. There's one scene in Episode 1 that is a Mr. Rochester flashback about Adele's mother, Celine (it's fairly mild, though, and nothing explicit). There's the ouija board scene in Episode 2 -- not necessary at all and definitely not in the book, but it's bearable. Towards the end of Episode 3, there's another Rochester Flashback Spoiler involving his wife, Bertha End of Spoiler; the one part of this scene was, I thought, was pushing the line for even a TV-14 rating. The last episode had two Jane flashbacks back to Thornfield with Mr. Rochester pleading with her to stay; these scenes were a bit uncomfortable (and also Jane would never have allowed it to happen in her room); nothing comes of the scene, but it is still a bit uncomfortable. If you avoid those scenes, you can enjoy a PG version of Jane Eyre (which is roughly where it should be).

Jane Eyre is available on DVD. It is made up of four episodes for a total of 202 minutes.


  1. Thanks for the review, Miss Elizabeth! I wanted to tell you that I really appreciate all the time you put in writing these good reviews- we value them a lot! If I hear of a movie and want to watch it, I normally go to your blog and read your opinions before watching it because our opinions are so similar!
    So thanks- and I really do love your blog. :)
    ~ Naomi

  2. I don't often leave comments... But usually, when someone does a review on this Jane Eyre, I feel like I have to. :)

    I (for the most part) completely agree with you on this Jane Eyre. I watched it with my sister and mom a couple years ago. My Mom and I had read the book (I have read it several times!) so we knew what to expect from a movie... or the negatives and positives the book had.

    I loved Jane in here. I thought Ruth Wilson did the best job I have ever seen anyone do as Jane. Mia W. did not have her spirit, and all the rest of them, I thought, were just plain old boring! I thought Ruth Wilson got her spirit, but also her timidity very well. I loved her as Jane up until they were engaged. I thought they took great liberties there... *SPOILER* Especially after she finds out about Bertha and they are kissing on her bed... honestly! She would have never allowed that! *SPOILER END!*

    I sort of liked Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester... I think I liked him better than anyone else I've seen. I just really don't like Mr. Rochester! I think he is a bit of a loser. :D

    The one major criticism I have for this movie is the (I thought) unnecessary kissing/inappropriate scenes they had in it. I loved how close it stayed to the book, and how it included some things that most other adaptations did not. I love how well the actors acted (:D) and the time they took to develop the story. But those scenes are really killers for me... I'm not sure if I would watch it again... if I did, I would be completely skipping a few parts, and partially skipping others. I mean, in other adaptations, we got the picture of how he broke up with Adele's mother without it showing (and him narrating with such... detail?!) the whole thing... I don't know... I think you get the point. Haha... like I said, I loved most of it, but I couldn't stand other parts. I wish they would just make one that is perfect! It can't be that hard!

    That is really cool too, that Toby Stephens is Maggie Smith's son. I didn't know that!

    I just did my own mini review... :D Sorry!


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  4. I love how personal your reviews are. May I suggest some more period dramas? I've sorted what I think are the best period films by era here on Willow and Thatch:

  5. On the plus side, she wasn't too quiet (unlike Mia Wasikowska's Jane); though Jane is supposed to be a timid character and probably should have some quietness about her, there is that strong nature in the character that doesn't completely make her a quiet mouse.

    Being a quiet personality doesn't always mean that one is timid.

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