Love & Friendship Parent Guide
A smart, witty adaptation of one of Jane Austen's lesser known works, this movie will appeal to fans of drawing room comedies of manners.
Parent Movie Review
Audiences have clear expectations about movies adapted from Jane Austen novels: the heroines will be likeable, their suitors will undergo some kind of test to demonstrate that they deserve them, and the story will end happily ever after. Love & Friendship, a witty adaptation of Jane Austen’s lesser known novella, Lady Susan, subverts most of these expectations.
Love & Friendship is the story of Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), a scheming, manipulative widow in straitened financial circumstances. Since upper class women of her day had no respectable means of earning an income, Lady Susan has been forced to rely on her charm. Luckily, she possesses charm and wit in abundance, compensating for the fact that she is no longer young (but still beautiful). Having become involved in an adulterous relationship with Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearain) while on a visit to his estate, Lady Susan feels the need of a strategic retreat and invites herself on a visit to Churchill, the estate owned by her brother-in-law, Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards). And this is where the story takes off.
Once at Churchill, Lady Susan executes her plan for the conquest of her in-laws. She will ingratiate herself with her sister-in-law, Catherine (Emma Greenwell), by doting on her children. And she will appear to be the world’s most gentle, retiring widow and make Catherine’s brother, Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), regret that he ever believed any unsavory rumors about her. All is going swimmingly until Lady Susan’s daughter, Frederica, runs away from her finishing school, only to be followed to Churchill by Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett), a wealthy, babbling fool who believes himself to be in love with her. Can Lady Susan pressure Frederica into marriage with Sir James while maintaining Reginald’s interest?
Director Whit Stillman, who also wrote the screenplay, deserves credit for an excellent adaptation of an epistolary novella. Turning letters into a movie script is a challenge but Stillman manages to keep the energy of the plot, depict the characters’ feelings and motivations, and, most importantly, maintain Lady Susan’s incisive, ironic voice. There are moments where the verbal exposition feels a bit clunky, but these are few.
Plaudits also go to the cast, particularly Kate Beckinsale. Even though Lady Susan is outrageously selfish and astoundingly hypocritical, even though she cruelly manipulates her daughter, Beckinsale manages to make her character at least somewhat sympathetic. We may not like the things she does, but her courage and determination in the face of her financial desperation are at least understandable. Beckinsale also manages to lie, rationalize, and justify her behavior with a perfectly straight face, bringing Jane Austen’s delicious verbal irony to the screen with real brilliance.
This delightful period piece benefits from having very little in the way of content issues. Adultery is briefly mentioned but never seen and there is little else that will concern parents. The biggest issue in this film is Lady Susan herself. Her selfishness, dishonesty, and disloyalty are character traits that will usually appall most audiences. But viewers who are looking for a comedy of manners, who enjoy witty dialogue, and who want to expand their knowledge of Jane Austen’s works, will be charmed by this deliciously clever adaptation of Love & Friendship.Directed by Whit Stillman. Starring Kate Beckinsale, Morfydd Clark, and Tom Bennett.. Running time: 93 minutes. Theatrical release May 13, 2016. Updated December 10, 2020
Watch the trailer for Love & Friendship
Love & Friendship
Rating & Content Info
Why is Love & Friendship rated PG? Love & Friendship is rated PG by the MPAA for some thematic elements.
Violence: A woman tells a man she will have him whipped: no action is taken.
Sexual Content: There is coded reference to an adulterous relationship. A man is fooled into believing he is the father of his wife’s child. Women are sometimes seen in low cut gowns, revealing cleavage. A mother tries to coerce and manipulate her daughter into an unwanted marriage.
Profanity: No swearing, but some name calling.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is minor social drinking: people drink wine during dinner.
Page last updated December 10, 2020
Love & Friendship Parents' Guide
Why do you think Lady Susan behaves as she does? What other options does a woman of her class have for financial support? What do you think she could have done instead?
Do you have a favorite Jane Austen novel? Why is it your favorite? What is the appeal of her novels to you? Why do you think they have remained popular for so long?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you enjoyed the film, you will want to read the original novella, Lady Susan . Jane Austen was one of the greatest novelists in the English language. Her beloved novels have stood the test of time and are considered classics. If you can’t get enough period drama, read Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey,and Persuasion.
If you’re looking for stories with more ambiguous characters, try William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. His anti-heroine, Becky Sharp, has fascinated generations of readers and certainly gives Lady Susan a run for her money.
Related home video titles:
Viewers who love period drama, especially those movies based on Jane Austen’s peerless novels, will want to watch Pride & Prejudice. Adapted from Austen’s most popular novel, this movie tells the story of the sparkling Elizabeth Bennet and the enigmatic Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Sense & Sensibility is another Jane Austen novel which has been successfully adapted for the big screen. Starring Emma Thompson (who also wrote the screenplay), this movie follows the romantic travails of the two Dashwood sisters, practical Elinor and emotional Marianne.
If you’re looking for period dramas with more angst, check out Jane Eyre. Based on Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, this classic story features a strong-willed governess, a moody employer, and a mad woman in the attic. Anna Karenina is a story of forbidden romance by the famed