This film had been well reviewed before I went to see it, and I expected it to be good. In effect, it exceeded expectations. It is generally true to the spirit of the novel and does not 'mess about' with it at all, though the chronology is changed - we start (very dramatically) with Jane's flight from Thornfield after the aborted 'wedding' and learn about her troubled past through flashback. That works fine. Her time at Lowood is rather briefly dealt with, but the essence is caught and the scenes with Helen Burns are moving. The film is often very beautiful visually, with breathtaking scenes of Jane standing alone at crosstracks wondering which way to go, crossing a huge moorland landscape alone as darkness threatens, making her way through misty trees to post letters (and thereby meeting Rochester), of Rochester hurrying after her over a bridge to propose (a scene echoed rather poignantly later), of Jane's lonely schoolhouse in late evening, of Jane in a darkened room trying to view a framed drawing by candlelight. The film is particularly good in the 'Gothic' scenes by night at Thornfield, where strange sounds - laughter, screams - are heard and Jane makes her way along corridors to investigate ; indeed, the reality of day-to-day living in a place like Thornfield in the mid 19th. century is very well conveyed.
Jane's relationship with Rochester - on the face of it, an unlikely one - is, of course, a central pillar of the novel, and in this film it pretty well works. That it does so is the result of some clever scripting (the script echoes nicely Charlotte Bronte's words at many points) and some very good work from Mia Wasikowska (Jane) and Michael Fassbender (Rochester). Wasikowska has been made to look exactly the part, a plain but interesting girl with an extraordinary face and range of thoughts and feelings expressed, usually, through very limited facial gesture. It's impressive. Young Jane, played by Amelia Clarkson, is also very good. Fassbender likewise does a good job with a complex, outwardly forbidding, tormented character with whom we have to empathise, and we do. Mrs. Fairfax is Judi Dench - almost enough said ; she conveys exactly the right mix of conscientiousness, loyalty and kindliness. Jamie Bell in the rather ungrateful role of St. John Rivers - good to the point of obsession and emotionally colourblind - is fine. This all works well.
I'm trying to think if there was anything I didn't like about the film, but I don't think there was. Of course it could have been done in a different way at all sorts of points, and indeed it has in the many previous adaptations, some very good. But I think this is an intelligent and compelling film which most people would greatly enjoy. I did.