Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is a spirited young woman living in Hampshire in the early 1800s. Her father (James Cromwell) is the local vicar with a meagre income, and consequently Jane, her parents and three brothers and sister constantly struggle to maintain their middle class existence. Jane’s sister Cassandra (Anna Maxwell Martin) has recently become engaged, providing both joy and a sense of relief for the family. Jane herself is under constant pressure to marry a wealthy man and help alleviate the family’s financial pressures.
Jane has other ideas for her future though. She wishes to pursue her dreams to be a writer, much to the distress of her mother (Brenda Blethyn). She wishes to marry for love, not money, an attitude her father supports. Jane receives a very suitable proposal from Lady Gresham’s (Maggie Smith) nephew, Mr Wisley (Laurence Fox) with whom she is not in love. While considering this offer, Jane meets the worldy but not wealthy Tom Lefroy (James McEvoy). A law student, Tom has been sent to Hampshire by his benefactor uncle (Ian Richardson) as punishment for unruly behaviour in London.
Jane and Tom initially clash, with Tom thinking Jane needs more experience before she can be a writer. However, over the course of his time in Hampshire, the couple fall in love. Standing in the way of their hope to be together are the strong objections of both their families, as neither Jane nor Tom have any financial standing. The couple are forced to decide whether to choose love over the practical issues of money.
Life choices (love vs money); female independence
There are two scenes in which Tom Lefroy participates in boxing matches. On both occasions he is briefly knocked out and bleeds.
- Tom suggests meaningfully to Jane that her experiences need to be widened.
- Tom and his friends are shown with prostitutes in taverns.
- Jane reads some ‘saucy’ scenes from the novel Tom Jones.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There are a few scenes in which Tom and his friends are shown to be drinking excessively or are intoxicated. And during the social gatherings, men and women are seen drinking wine, but are not drunk.
Nudity and sexual activity
- In an early scene, Mr and Mrs Austen are waking in bed. After being goaded by Mrs Austen, Mr Austen dives under the sheets; this is followed by a look of pleasure on Mrs Austen's face.
- Jane’s brother Henry and her French cousin are seen going into a bedroom together one night.
- After a social cricket game, Tom and Henry run down to the river, closely followed by the girls. The boys strip off and jump into the river, and the girls see them naked (rear view only).
This movie contains some mild coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Becoming Jane is a romantic film based around the life, and possible love experiences, of the author Jane Austen. Young children may find the themes and dialogue of this movie uninteresting and hard to follow. However, adolescents, particularly girls, and adults will enjoy the attractive protagonists, production quality and setting of this movie.
The movie explores the themes of family loyalty and support, acting selflessly for others and the difficulties women of that period faced if they wished to find independence. Jane is shown as a role model for independent women (given the constraints of her time). These are values you may wish to discuss with your child.