Becoming Jane (2007)



Director:     Julian Jarrold. 

Starring:     Anne Hathaway (Jane Austen),  James McAvoy (Tom Lefroy),  Julie Walters (Mrs. Austen),  James Cromwell (Rev Austen),  Maggie Smith (Lady Gresham),  Anna Maxwell Martin (Cassandra 'Cassie' Austen),  Lucy Cohu (Eliza De Feuillide),  Laurence Fox (Mr. Wisley),  Ian Richardson (Judge Langlois),  Joe Anderson (Henry Austen),  Leo Bill (John Warren),  Jessica Ashworth (Lucy Lefroy),  Eleanor Methven (Mrs. Lefroy),  Michael James Ford (Mr. Lefroy),  Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Robert Fowle). 

early love affair of Jane Austen that affected her later writing


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.   

Jane tries to write in a very bucolic setting.    Everyone else seems to be sleeping.  She starts banging on the piano, thereby waking everyone.  The family goes to church. Her father is the reverend there.  With them is their cousin Contessa Eliza De Feuillide, whose French husband was guillotined.  Also at church is the grande dame Lady Gresham and her nephew is Mr. Wisley.  Jane's mother would like her to marry Wisley but Jane doesn't care for the man.  Her mother says: Jane, you know our position.   

Brother Henry Austen watches a boxing match.  He knows one of the fighters and shouts to him "Lefroy".  Tom Lefroy turns and gets knocked out by his opponent.  Henry introduces Tom to John Warren, a new student of Jane's father.    They are going to a "Tahitian love fest".  John doesn't know what that is and the guys won't tell him.

In court with Lefroy's wealthy uncle, Judge Langlois.  Lefroy, originally from Limerick, Ireland, is there to learn the law.  He talks to the judge.  The judge tells him:  "If you aspire to my property, you must strive hard."  He complains of Tom's wild behavior all over town.  The judge decides to send Tom to live with relatives. Tom objects that his relatives live in the country.  Indeed, says the Judge. 

Mr. Robert Fowle will soon be marrying Jane's blonde sister Cassandra.  Henry arrives at the Austen residence.  Sister Jane is there to greet him.  John is with them.  Henry plays around with brother George, who can't speak.  Notice arrives that Lefroy will be coming to visit.  Henry is back from Oxford with his degree.  Jane reads a poem dedicated to her sister Cassandra:  "To a Fowle".  Lefroy blusters in on the reading.  He finds Jane's reading much too long-winded.  She finishes and the people clap.   

Tom handles a weapon and accidentally fires it, so they send him out for a walk.  He gets lost.  Jane sees him walking and hopes he doesn't see her.  He shouts:  Miss, miss, miss.  He falls into a hole; she laughs.  He wants desperately to speak to her, but she says: "Yes, but I am alone."  Tom wants to know what rules of conduct apply in this situation.  After all, they have been introduced have they not?   Jane tells him:  "You can't even remember my name."  He criticizes the place and she gets very defensive about her home, Steventon.  She hurriedly leaves him.  "Are you sure I haven't offended you?" he shouts after her..  Henry asks his cousin to dance.  Mr. Wisley asks Miss Austen.  Jane is not keen on the idea.  Wisley even steps on her foot hard. 

Janes starts making fun of Tom's Irish background.  While she criticizes him she asks where is he from anyway.  Limerick! says Tom standing right behind her.  Nevertheless, he asks her to dance.  Snootily she tells him this is called a country dance.  They trade insults.  He tells her:  "And you think you're a cut above the company."  She leaves.  She later writes that she finds him the most disagreeable, arrogant, insufferable, impertinent of men. 

Lefroy and Henry play cricket.  Henry's wealthy and older cousin still flirts with him.  John Warren gets up to bat and is a failure.  Jane goes up to bat.  The women are a bit shocked.  The fellow tell the pitcher Tom to go easy, be gentle with her.  She really knocks it out of the park and into the woods.  She and Henry score a lot of points before Lefroy tags Henry out.  Henry and Lefroy have a race back to the house.  Jane and cousin watch them go swimming in the nude. Young Lucy another Austen sister really likes Tom.  Some woman says Lucy would marry him tomorrow, if she could. 

Tom reads one of the books about nature that Jane mentioned on a walk.   Jane catches him and teases him about reading.  He tells her that he knows more about the world than she.  He gives her a book, The History of Tom Jones, and tells her she will understand.  So she reads it.  She reads it and says to Tom that she disapproves.  Tom argues with her about the novel. 

Mr. Lefroy goes into another boxing match against a boxer who was nearly killing his opponent.  Jane is upset when he gets hurt. But Lefroy makes a comeback.  Lucy calls out to Tom, he looks and goes down, just like the previous boxing match.  Jane goes to comfort him.  He is partly pretending he is knocked out to get her attention.

Mom wants Jane to marry a wealthy fellow, but dad does not approve of giving his daughter to a man with the right price.    A carriage pulls up at the Austen home.  It's Lady Graham again with Wisely in tow.  Mother Austen tells her that Jane is out for a walk.  George and Jane round the corner and she tries to hide from Wisley and company, but she is discovered by her mother.  Jane is to take a walk with Wisley, but she bows out to start writing.  But she is still force to go walking.  Wisley proposes marriage to her.  She indicates her unwillingness to marry. 

Mother is very angry with Jane.  Money is absolutely necessary, she insists.  Jane suggests she could live by her writings.  A dispute arises and Jane goes off to watch the pigs.  Father says Wisley would give her a comfortable live.  He adds:  "Nothing destroys spirit like poverty."

Jane criticizes her cousin saying that Henry is much younger than she.  And poorer says the cousin.  So cousin says Jane should think about her Irish friend who has no money.  Another big ball takes place.  Jane goes to Wisley and dances with him.  Later Lady Graham has a private talk with Jane.  She complains that Jane should have said yes immediately to her nephew.  Her ladyship is mistaken, say Jane.  No, your father is in grave financial difficulties.  But he has a daughter upon who fortune has smiled. 

Tom speaks with Jane.  You are leaving tomorrow, she says.  They kiss.  "Did I do that well?" she asks.  Very, very well, says Tom.  He says that he has no money and no property.  But Jane must know what he feels for her.  

Eliza, Henry and Jane go to pay a visit to Judge Langlois with whom Tom is staying.  Tom is very happy to see Jane again.  Uncle is astounded that Jane is a writer of novels and has been paid well for her writings. 

Tom has to break the bad news to Jane.  His uncle has refused his consent for them to marry.  Someone had written a letter to the judge spilling all the beans.  Who sent it, Lady Graham?, asks Jane.  Or her nephew, suggests Tom.    I Even worse news is given by Tom.  He thinks he will have to give in to his family.  Jane  says is that all you have to say to me.  She  tells him good-bye.  In the carriage she cries.  Tom looks from the window as the carriage leaves.   

Jane is very depressed.  She apologizes to her mother for her behavior.  At a dinner with her ladyship, a rider brings a message to Rev. Austen.  Robert has been killed of yellow fever shortly after arriving in Santo Domingo.  Henry tells Jane that Tom is engaged.  It hits her hard.  "So soon?" she comments.  The two wounded sisters console each other.  Her sister asks her what she is writing about.  Wisley walks with Jane.  She mentions a letter (the one to Uncle), but he doesn't seem to know what she is talking about.  She accepts his proposal, curtsies and promptly leaves.

Jane walks with George.  Suddenly they see Tom walking on the path.  Jane asks about his fiancÚ, the girl from County Wexford.  George says to his sister that she loves Tom.  She says no.  "I detest the very sight of him."  Tom kisses her. She hits him several times.  He does not want her to marry Wisley.  "What value would there be in life, if we were not together", he says.  Run away with me.  Leave everything? she asks.  They hug and kiss.  Her sister Cassandra says she will lose everything.  "How will you write, Jane?" asks Cassandra  Jane turns the tables on her:  "If you could have your Robert back, even like this, would you do it?"  Cassandra capitulates.   

She leaves the house.  Tom grabs her hand.  They go through the woods to catch the morning coach.  They catch it, but then the coach gets stuck in the mud.  While Tom helps push the coach out of the mud, she reads the letter.  Thanks for the money you sent it reads.  Very much appreciated by his father and me.  How sweet to share his allowance from his uncle, they write.  We are ready says Tom.  He sees that she is upset.  But she gets back on the coach with him.  She is upset that his family depends on him.  Tom says: "I can earn money."  And she responds:  "It won't be enough."  She says good-bye once again.  Jane the martyr. 

She returns home.  John sees her first.  He says he wants to marry her. Jane gets upset and asks if there are no other women in the county?  Then it dawns on her.  It was John who wrote the judge the fateful letter.  She goes to slap him.  He cowers.  She stops her hand from striking him.  He leaves. Her mother is very thankful that she came back to them.  Her Ladyship won't attend the service if Jane will be there.  Jane suggests a young lady could live on by her own wits.  Lady Graham, but Wisley quickly jumps out of the carriage and takes a walk with Jane along the river.  He agrees to part as friends. 

Henry and cousin wed as Jane busily writes her latest novel.    She thinks she sees Tom.  Henry chases after him.  Jane is introduced to Tom and his daughter, who is a big fan of Jane's.  The daughter's name is Jane also. The daughter asks Jane Austen to read for her.  Henry says that she doesn't do this in the hopes of remaining anonymous.  Jane makes a big exception for once and reads from her work to the room with daughter Jane at her side.  Jane Austen looks at Tom as she closes her book. 

In her short life, Jane Austen wrote six of the greatest novels in English literature.  He became a successful lawyer and the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland.  Jane never married, nor did Cassandra. 


Interesting movie.  Romeo and Juliet against the opposition of their families.  This one has a little happier of an ending, but a sad one none the less.   Personally, I don't buy Jane's excuse that she is backing out of the relationship because her family depends upon her for their well-being.  I am always suspicious of those who play the martyr and then seek the sympathy of others for their martyrdom.  Human beings are always lying to themselves.  If Tom was willing to risk harming his own family, why should Jane feel a greater sense of responsibility to his family than he does?  And one can't have too much admiration or sympathy for someone who wimps out on a relationship where the partners claim the relationship to be with the loves of their lives.  I suspect that Jane had a greater love of her writing than she had for the "love of her life".   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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