“Wide Sargasso Sea” (2006)

Running Time:  84 minutes 

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Victoria Hamilton, and Nina Sosnaya

In this prequel to Jane Eyre (based on the novel by Jean Rhys), youthful Englishman and second son, Edward Rochester (Rafe Spall), travels to the West Indies (Jamaica to be precise) for a possible arranged marriage with Creole plantation owner, Antoinette Cosway (Rebecca Hall), the step-niece of his friend Richard Mason.  (You may recall that in Bronte’s tale, she is called Bertha Mason.)  Society will deem it a good match- he has the good English family name and she has the land/cash. 

Edward feels a strong attraction to Antoinette, but is anxious about being tied to a woman he knows very little about.  He’s also uncomfortable in the heat and culture of Jamaica.  But Antoinette makes friends with Edward, not totally against the match.  She is an orphan who feels a deep connection to her homeland, while England “seems like a dream.”  Edward thinks that’s ridiculous- England is the real world for him

Antoinette’s attitude makes her Aunt Cora (Victoria Hamilton) nervous; she comments that a girl w/ her qualities doesn’t have to settle for the first man she meets.  Antoinette (a very intriguing character) has a mix of innocence and openness about her.  Though she looks delicate, she’s not afraid to express herself, unlike the repressed Edward.  Perhaps he is a little bit afraid of her?  Also, there are rumors about her “mad mother.”   

There are many layers to this story, but at the heart of the matter are two people who fail to understand each other.  The man seeks to control the woman, who has a heritage and identity of her own- not to mention feelings.  He is afraid of the power she holds over him w/ her beauty, sensuality, and mysterious past.   

In one crucial scene, Edward even insists that his new bride change her name, as “it doesn’t sound English.”  She’s shocked by his words.  “My name is Antoinette!” she cries out.  (Sorry ladies, this is not the Rochester you loved in Jane Eyre.)

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2 thoughts on ““Wide Sargasso Sea” (2006)

  1. A symbolic relationship between an Empire and it’s Colonies. This is a mature Britain that is beginning to question it’s own sense of inherent superiority and acknowledging a need for equality. But failing that, the consequences of forced ownership making those beautiful, rich lands into “basket cases”.

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