Love & Friendship is an amalgamation of two early novellas (Lady Susan and Love and Freindship [sic]), penned by the esteemed Jane Austen when she was still in her teens. It’s a witty, acerbic tale, and seems true to the spirit of this oft-misunderstood writer in a way that many screen adaptations of her work do not. Romance, here, is never really the point; we don’t really care who marries whom. Instead, this is a satire: a deliciously wry examination of how people manipulate social mores.
Kate Beckinsale, as Lady Susan, is superbly cast. She is undoubtedly a venal fiend, and yet we root for her because… well, why not? She’s attractively rebellious and unrepentant in her selfishness, and – if some men are idiotic enough to fall for her games – then really, more fool them.
Most engagingly foolish of all is Tom Bennett’s James Martin, an affable buffoon, whose lack of intelligence is more than compensated by the size of his estate. Bennett milks his role’s comic potential, clearly relishing the chance to ask, in all seriousness, which of the twelve commandments he is allowed to break.
Oh, it’s a slight film all right, like Austen’s books,”a little bit (two inches wide) of ivory” – but it’s crammed full with such verve and vivacity that it’s hard to think of a more engaging way to spend an afternoon. Especially when we’re in the delightful environs of Edinburgh’s oldest and most loved cinema, the superb Cameo, where we’ve recently become members.