I don't know a whole lot about the relationship, haven't read the letters between the two or the poetry of Keats. Perhaps this was a good thing. I felt a magic worked upon me as the poems were read by the two lovers, and maybe that would have been different if I was more experienced. The film chronicles how the two meet, from the time Brawne first serves tea to the poet to the end. It shows the obstacles, especially that provided by Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider, who played John Krasinski's brother in "Away We Go"), the poet that John writes with, who pretty much wants to separate Keats and Brawne in the name of literature, not in the name of love (as you may think such a thing would turn out).
The film blossoms like the relationship it shows (as Brawne reads Keats, loves parts of his poems, and desires to have an education in poetry), and starts wither in monotony as the relationship hurdles through conflict. But I think the film is effective, in the way that it could appeal to a seasoned Keats reader, or, like me, one new to the pages of his books. Let me now talk of the film's technical design. As Fanny designs her own costumes by trade, wearing a new one in each scene, there is a bar set for good attire, and let me tell you, it is met and much more. Designer Janet Patterson (who's worked with Campion before) creates spectacular costumes, ones that you'll be hearing about come Oscar night. There is also lush cinematography to be had from Greg Fraser, and great period art direction, too. Campion's screenplay is well-written, as it should be. And of the performances: there is a natural feeling given off by the leads, Cornish, Whishaw, and Schneider. Schneider is the best of the three, as a man who wants Keats all to himself. The other two make an involving couple, riffing on John's poems together. All seem well-cast. What can I say? I don't believe the film can be seen as a triumph (on the most part for its clipped editing and its sometimes disconnected feeling), although it is moderately successful and entertaining for the most part. I suggest you try it out. B