Jane Eyre, Cary Joji Fukunaga, 120 mins (PG)
Friends with Benefits, Will Gluck, 109 mins (15)

Spoiler alert! Viewer, she marries him. But before then, life is bleak. A new telling of Brontë's classic is so chilly you’d better wrap up

About an hour into Jane Eyre, a horse-drawn carriage delivers some bonneted and top-hatted toffs to a country house, but that's the only glimmer on offer of the lavish cosiness of a typical British costume drama.

For the rest of the film, the outdoor scenes are all bare trees and grey skies, and the indoor scenes are pretty grey, too, as the characters creep around their sparsely furnished rooms with only a candle to light their way. It's so harsh and chilly that you'd be advised to take an extra jumper.

The story isn't comfortingly familiar, either. The screenwriter, Moira Buffini, has thrown away pages and pages of Charlotte Brontë's dialogue, leaving only the component parts of the plot, which she's rearranged into an elegant flashback structure. When we first see Jane (Mia Wasikowska), she's fleeing across the moors – wearing grey, naturally – and collapsing at the door of a village parson (Jamie Bell, convincing apart from his stick-on mutton chops). She then remembers her childhood with her spiteful aunt (Sally Hawkins) and sadistic teacher (Simon McBurney) before we come to the heart of the film, her stint as a governess in a stately home. It's a draughty place where things go bump in the night, but it provides Jane with the friendship of the housekeeper (Judi Dench), and the ambiguous attention of her moody employer, Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender).

In the book, all of this is narrated by Jane, so we always know what she's thinking, but in the film Wasikowska, who's best known as Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, has to convey everything she wants with a few slight frowns and downward glances. It's a captivating performance. Wasikowska isn't quite as "small and plain" as Jane is supposed to be, but she submerges herself into the character without any attempt to be ingratiating or glamorous, and she holds in her emotions so tightly that before long you're willing her to crack a smile. When she eventually does, you can't help smiling along with her.

The film as a whole is just as uncompromising. Its director, Cary Joji Fukunaga, keeps the atmosphere subdued enough to ensure that what could be a lurid melodrama is always dignified, and ultimately more powerful than most period romances, for all their wet shirts and festive weddings. But it could probably have done with just a flicker more fire. Jane is so reserved that she could be accused of standing back and watching her life from a distance. And when a nocturnal attack by a mysterious cannibal flits by with almost no comment, you might wonder if Fukunaga is being too subtle for his own good.

If Jane Eyre is an anti-costume drama, Friends with Benefits would like to see itself as an anti-romantic comedy. Its hero and heroine, Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, are always joking about how mendacious Hollywood romantic comedies are, but the film's claims to be a radical alternative might hold more water if there hadn't already been two rom-coms this year with an identical premise. Like Love & Other Drugs and No Strings Attached, it's about two young, single people who decide to have a sex-only relationship.

Its frankness about sex makes it earthier than most rom-coms, but in other respects Friends with Benefits is as contrived as anything that Kate Hudson has subjected us to: the song-packed soundtrack, the idealised New York setting, the gay confidant and the eccentric relatives are all present and correct, but this time they come larded with aren't-we-cool smugness. Ah, well, there's time for Hollywood to pump out a fourth film on the same subject before the end of the year.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber sees Jesse Eisenberg reuniting with the makers of Zombieland for the grammatically unsound 30 Minutes or Less

Film Choice

Suburban psycho-drama turns into hitman thriller, then into something stranger still in Ben Wheatley's Kill List, an inspired departure from Brit cinema's well-beaten track. Still further on the wild side, Greek film Attenberg – about the birds, the bees and Monty Python silly walks – is a bizarre offering from the team that brought us Dogtooth.

Also Showing: 11/09/2011

Troll Hunter (103 mins, 15)

This hit Norwegian monster movie is a cross between Cloverfield and This Is Spinal Tap. Three student film-makers meet an outdoorsman who belongs to a little-known government department. When he's not filling in forms and grumbling about his lack of overtime pay, he's turning tree-sized trolls into stone. Tremendous fun.

A Lonely Place to Die (98 mins, 15)

Melissa George stars as a mountaineer who's hunted by a pair of remarkably sloppy and trigger-happy kidnappers in the Scottish Highlands. The tumultuous finale, set during a Wicker Man-ish pagan procession, should serve as the director's Hollywood calling card.

Colombiana (110 mins, 15)

Luc Besson's latest grubby thriller stars Zoe Saldana as a mass murderer. We're supposed to sympathise with her because she likes to slink around in her underwear when she's not gunning down defenceless victims.

Kes (110 mins, PG)

To celebrate the 75th birthday of "Kenneth Loach", as the opening credits call him, his 1969 classic gets a welcome reissue.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future