Becoming Jane (PG)



Romance (2007)
120mins UK

Starring: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Laurence Fox
Director: Julian Jarrold
Writer(s): Sarah Williams, Kevin Hood
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Period piece based on the reportedly real-life romance between 20-year-old Jane Austen and Irish student lawyer Tom Lefroy, a man of limited means and therefore an unsuitable match. Despite the protestations of her parents, Jane continues the affair, rejecting a marriage proposal from a wealthy suitor. She draws inspiration from her own misfortunes of the heart to pen Pride And Prejudice.

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LondonNet Film Review
Becoming Jane

Growing up in the late 18th century, a patriarchal society ruled by strict convention, Jane Austen knew only too well that young women were expected to marry for financial security not love...

Jane Austin (Anne Hathaway) in Becoming Jane. Copyright Buena Vista International (UK)In the opening to Pride And Prejudice, one of her most famous novels, she writes, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

If you believe Julian Jarrold's charming period piece, written by Sarah Williams and Kevin Hood, Austen was herself a victim of the brutal tug of war between the yearnings of the heart and familial duty. She apparently suffered the same romantic wounds as many women of her generation - denied the choice to pursue the man she loved. In Austen's case, she drew painful inspiration from her emotional travails to craft some of the most beautiful and haunting books of her time; tales of unrequited love and self-sacrifice that continue to enchant and move readers to this very day.

Becoming Jane is based on the reportedly real-life romance between the 20-year-old Jane (Anne Hathaway) and student lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), a man of limited means and therefore an unsuitable match.

Jane Austin (Anne Hathaway) and Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) in Becoming Jane. Copyright Buena Vista International (UK)They meet by chance in the country where Tom has been despatched to curb his fun-loving ways. Gradually, Tom and Jane fall in love, despite the protestations of Jane's mother (Julie Walters), who believe that a woman should marry for long-term financial security. "Attraction is desirable. Money is absolutely indispensable," she warns.

Her husband (James Cromwell) tries to argue his daughter's case but even he is forced to concede that we cannot always have what we want: "Nothing destroys spirit like poverty."

Jane continues the affair with Tom, rejecting a marriage proposal from a wealthy suitor, Mr Wisley (Laurence Fox). The rigid social conventions of the time continue to thwart the Jane and Tom's desire, while Wisley's formidable aunt, Lady Gresham (Dame Maggie Smith), hopes to persuade Jane to change her mind for the sake of her nephew's happiness.

Like her romantic heroines, Jane faces an agonising decision.

Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy), Jane Austin (Anne Hathaway) and Mr Wisely (Laurence Fox) in Becoming Jane. Copyright Buena Vista International (UK)Hathaway and man of the moment McAvoy are an attractive pairing and they generate a powerful sexual chemistry. Smith and Walters provide much of the comic relief, the latter quipping saucily to her husband, "I've shared your bed for 23 years and perfection is something I've not encountered."

There is a supporting role too from the late Ian Richardson as Tom's uncle, Judge Langlois, who sees his nephew as a financial investment - one to be protected from Jane at all costs.

Country locations look gorgeous and Jarrold directs with a light touch. The film builds to a potentially devastating emotional crescendo but fails to breaks our hearts, ending with a whimper that a writer of Austen's calibre would have found most disagreeable.

- Sophie Abell

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