Both of the leads were wonderful - I liked Abbie Cornish (Fanny Brawne) when I saw her in the second Elizabeth film, but I was initially skeptical of Ben Whishaw (John Keats) because of his unfortunate association with 2008's Brideshead Revisited. I instantly forget his turn as Sebastian Flyte when presented with his understated, honorable, sparkling Keats. Cornish was wonderful, making Fanny into a study in opposites: someone both flip and thoughtful, secure and vulnerable, warm and interior.
It's that very duality that I love about Jane Campion's film making. She grabs ahold of me most when building a world that is both handmade and elegant, rough and refined, whimsical and grounded. The first beach scene in The Piano is an excellent example of this dynamic, as layers of black Victorian taffeta mingle with the dirt and sand of the shore. Bright Star carries on that theme in quieter ways: With Fanny's simple stitches and gorgeous, dramatic collars. With the couple themselves, slight Keats mingling impishly with the sturdy, rosy-cheeked Ms. Brawne. With the slow bloom of their story set amidst the mundane everyday interiors and glimmering, grand forests.
The whole thing has a beautiful slowness to it (Josiah referred to it at one point as "so pleasantly boring"), but this just gives their love story the space it needs to unfold at a convincing pace. And the romance does feel convincing and true (even to me, who usually rolls her eyes at on-screen love) - because Jane Campion is a master at replicating the way we really experience love:
As something at once humbly naturalistic and terribly grand.