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Jane Eyre (2006) Tenth anniversary Review – The Definitive Adaptation?

Jane Eyre (2006) Tenth anniversary Review
Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens as Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester.

Jane Eyre (2006) Review

The 2006 TV adaptation of Jane Eyre first premiered in the UK ten years ago on this very date. While it took a few more months to premiere in the US (which is where I first saw it), the miniseries had already started to make its mark as arguably the definitive adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s famed gothic novel, Jane Eyre. But what marks Sandy Welch’s version as so magical? Was it the script? The performances? The production quality? Looking back ten years later, I believe the magic boils down to all three.

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When I first read Jane Eyre at 14 years of age, I didn’t quite comprehend the romantic relationship between Jane and her master, Mr. Rochester. He was so old after all (because 38 is terribly ancient)! Still, from the start, Charlotte Brontë captivated me with her tale of a plain, intelligent governess named Jane who falls for the Byronic and secretive Mr. Rochester. I rooted for her happiness and empathized with her many plights from her nasty, horrible Aunt, the Dickens-like Lowood School, to her near starvation after running from Rochester and Thornfield Hall.


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Because of Jane, I returned to Jane Eyre time and time again. And as I grew older, I understood the love story on a deeper level. Mr. Rochester, while deeply flawed, loved Jane with his whole soul in all his Byronic glory. Thankfully, it is also a story about redemption. Their epic romance all about soul love is one for the ages.

Over the years and as I matured, it is safe to say that Jane Eyre eventually became my favorite novel of all time. And as someone who loves period dramas based on my favorite classic books, I kept searching for the perfect adaptation, the version that just “felt” like the true spirit of the novel. At least as I read it.

While there have many ‘good’ versions and even fantastic ones prior to the 2006 adaptation, none of them had the complete essence of Jane Eyre. Sure, the Orson Welles classic film entertained me (though to call Joan Fontaine plain is a bit absurd), Timothy Dalton was a near perfect Mr. Rochester, and Anna Paquin played the young Jane in the 1996 film adaptation with a fierce and admirable spirit.

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Nevertheless, in each of these versions aspects of the book were entirely cut out (St. John often gets the boot, unfortunately) or there was just something missing in spirit. And it’s best if we don’t even talk about the Ciaran Hinds adaptation. I’m sorry, I love Ciaran but him as Mr. Rochester barking everywhere the whole time is a big no…

The closest for me was the 1983 adaptation. But I didn’t feel like Zelah Clarke quite captured Jane’s spirit.

Jane Eyre (2006) Tenth anniversary Review
Mr. Rochester grabs Jane after she expresses her true feelings.

Then the 2006 adaptation came. As I watched the famed gothic romance unfold onscreen, I was spellbound as if reading Jane Eyre for the first time. Here, the essence felt true. I believed Ruth Wilson was Jane, the same spirit that soared in Brontë’s words. When Ruth Wilson as Jane proclaimed her feelings to Mr. Rochester, I was in awe. This was the Jane I had always imagined. Jane Eyre had finally come to life as she was meant to.

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Toby Stephens is almost as good (I say almost because Ruth Wilson IS Jane) because he understands Mr. Rochester in ways other adaptations often forget (Ciaran Hinds I am thinking of you). While certainly moody, Rochester is also popular, sarcastic, and flirty. He’s not handsome in the general sense of the time the book was written, but he has other qualities that make him attractive. And his conversations with Jane were always filled with sensual tension, something that Stephens brings out admirably.

Here, I understood why Jane would fall for him because the two actors captured the spirit of the characters with amazing off the charts chemistry. They became them and emphasized traits often forgotten such as passion and Jane’s own flaw of loving Rochester too much (so much so that she overlooks the truth).

Jane Eyre (2006) Tenth anniversary Review

Sandy Welch, as the screenwriter, further cements this adaptation as one of the best (if not the best) by also capturing the atmosphere and themes of the novel by bringing these themes out in dialogue. Whether it is about Jane’s independent spirit as a bird, Rochester’s need for redemption, the importance of the red room in connection to Bertha (not saying more than that), or even the twin soul connection between Jane and Edward Rochester, Sandy Welch proved that she understood the novel on a deeper level.

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Sure, she focused the adaptation more on Jane and Rochester than the beginning of the novel and Lowood Institution, however, Welch made a thematic choice that works because she captures the heart of Jane Eyre. She captured the truth behind Brontë’s words and I loved that. Thankfully, the production behind the script made this version even better.

This adaptation is not without its criticisms, however. Should Rochester have disguised himself as the gypsy? I think Stephens certainly could have pulled it off. And the sensual scene in the bedroom was wholly unnecessary. While not an explicit scene, creatively it is a departure from the novel and not true to Jane as a character. Still, these are small complaints and don’t affect the overall quality of this masterful production.

Returning to the miniseries ten years later, I realize I love it just as much as I did the first time around. Sure, a repeat experience is never the same as the first. That being said, I still fell in love with Mr. Rochester’s sarcastic smirks (Toby Stephens will no doubt make you swoon) and got sucked into Jane’s world with ease. For those who haven’t returned to Jane Eyre for a while, it’s time to revisit because this adaptation really is as good as you remember it to be. If you haven’t seen this fabulous period drama yet, what are you waiting for? Jane Eyre (2006) is available on DVD and free to stream on DramaFever.

What do you think about this adaptation of Jane Eyre? Which adaptation is your ‘definitive’ version? Sound off below…

Photos: BBC


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By on September 24th, 2016

About Autumn Topping

In second grade, Autumn wrote her first story, “The Spinach Monster,” and hasn't stopped writing since. Intrigued by the tales her grandmother told of vampires, witches, and ghosts as a girl, she's always been drawn to the fantastic. Later, Autumn studied English and Creative Writing (continuing her love for classic literature and everything old-fashioned) and graduated with an MA in Children’s Literature and an MS in Library & Information Science from Simmons College. Currently, she co-runs this lovely blog and works as a YA Librarian.

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13 thoughts on “Jane Eyre (2006) Tenth anniversary Review – The Definitive Adaptation?”

  1. You are making me revisit this adaptation when I had decided the Fassbender /Wasikowska version was the best. Filmmaker Fukunaga makes great films. You didn’t mention this 2011 version.

  2. I could not agree with you more. I have always loved Jane Eyre. I’ve read the book several times in my lifetime and I’ve watched every movie based on Jane Eyre that I could find. This mini series IS Jane Eyre. Ruth Wilson looks like the Jane that has always been in my mind’s eye. I think she captures her perfectly. I fell in love with Jane all over again. I love the ending (I was less happy with Fukunaga’s ending). If Jane Eyre did not have a happy ending, it may have been too painful to read, or watch. I just finished rewatching the mini series again, and there I was, a 57 year old man, sobbing with happiness for Jane and Rochester.

  3. I regard this adaptation as one of the two best versions of the novel. The other is the 1983 version with Zeulah Clarke and Tmothy Dalton.

        • I know! It’s ridiculous how many streaming services are popping up left and right. Unfortunately, that means more and more great content will be pulled from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. because each “company” will want their own copyrighted work for themselves. The problem is that people don’t want to or can’t afford all of these different streaming services. Still, I think it likely Jane Eyre won’t make it back to Netflix for quite some time. Shame really…

  4. I love your review of my favourite adaptation of my favourite book! I particularly agree with the following: Ruth Wilson IS Jane, Toby’s effective portrayal of popularity, sarcasm and flirtatiousness, and Sandy Welch’s deep understanding of the novel.

    I’d like to address your two complaints, if I may. Do you believe that the gypsy scene can be successfully screened? I doubt very much if it can. The few times I’ve seen it done I wasn’t convinced. It works on the page, but can’t be effectively transferred to the screen, in my opinion. I think Sandy Welch’s compromise of having a real gypsy act as the medium through which Rochester obtains information is so clever. We get to see just how desperate Rochester is for Jane to reveal herself, and just how ever-so-slightly bonkers he is! Lol. Yet Toby Stephens preserves his dignity intact!

    Turning to the bedroom leaving scene, I used to be troubled by this. Then I reread chapter 32 of the book which describes Jane’s sensual dreams that she has about Rochester while she is in her cottage at Morton. She relates how she would awake in an empty bed and convulse with despair. Then I watched the bedroom scene in Jane Eyre 2006. The same awaking and crying with despair on her empty bed. Such a clever combining of the two scenes made possible because we are seeing this not chronologically but as a flashback from inside Jane’s tortured head. So, yes, this isn’t exactly how the leaving scene was written, but I would argue it captures like no other the essence of what Bronte wrote – the sensuality, arousal and despair.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • I heartily agree. I’ve watched most adaptations of Jane Eyre and I was captivated by the 2006 version. I’d never heard of Toby Stephens before this production and he will always be Rochester. I have watched hundreds of movies in my time but never have I watched anything that moved me so much as this story. Rochester goes through every scenario in the leaving scene he can think of searching for the one that will change her heart. Anyone who has had the person they love most walk away knows his agony.
      When I think of couples in silhouette moments captured in film, one of the most famous was Scarlett and Rhett while Atlanta burned. Stephens and Wilson captured in silhouette and the passion on full display after the fire scene is mesmerizing. I was drawn in completely; I could feel myself standing in Jane’s place…breathtaking. And Toby Stephens’ profile is absolutely the most beautiful profile I’ve ever seen on a man…ever.
      I read an article by a British columnist who groaned on about Toby Stephens being absolutely terrible casting choice. I don’t believe an actor ever made me swoon before.
      Simply put, I love it.

  5. Sorry, me again just to comment about whether the bedroom scene is true to Jane as a character, as you expressed.

    I know that Jane rejects Rochester’s kisses and embraces after she discovers he’s married. Of course, this is because of her deep principles and self respect, but it’s also because she doesn’t trust herself. She wants him in the same way that all young people in love want each other. That’s why she has the most terrible internal struggle and has to flee real temptation. We know Jane is a passionate woman. She is exactly like Rochester in this regard – her soulmate , and we know how physical HE is. She rejects marriage to the cold fish St John, saying that she would be “forced to keep the fire of [her] nature continually low”. She has erotic dreams of Rochester, and describes her lost life with him in terms of “delirious with his love” and “fevered with …bliss”.

    I think it’s important to convey to a modern audience this side of Jane’s character. To many, Jane is just a prim and proper Victorian governess in a rather chaste book, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The novel is charged with sexuality. So I think viewers need to see the strong sexual bond that Jane has with Rochester, so that we can fully appreciate the enormous sacrifice she ultimately makes and the very great strength of character required to carry that through.

    To that end, I think Sandy Welch’s treatment of the leaving scene is entirely justified. And fusing it with Jane’s sensual dreams makes it positively inspired!

  6. I’m a little late commenting here but I just watched this Jane Eyre again and wanted to share my thoughts. My first exposure to Jane Eyre was this adaptation in 2008 and I knew nothing of the story; it was all new to me. I’m a sucker for English period pieces, but this was on a whole other level. Ms Wilson was simply amazing. All characters were very good, including Toby Stephens but the soul piercing performance of Ms Wilson is nothing short of miraculous. The proposal scene was a transfixing tour-de-force.

    After this experience, I was eager to see other adaptations hoping for more magic. Unfortunately, they all fell short due to Ms Wilson’s unattainable performance. I can’t imagine anyone as Jane Eyre like I can’t imagine anyone other than Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’hara.

  7. Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens are the perfect Jane and Rochester. I can’t imagine Anyone else in the roles. I plan to watch the film for a third time and read the book again very soon.


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