Once you admit that the Jane Austen depicted onscreen bears scant relation to any person named Jane Austen, living or dead, the film fulfills its purpose. I had never before considered her as a cricketer, for instance, and I am fairly sure that she never sought to elope, but I enjoyed both inventions—the one bucolic and triumphant, the other sodden and frustrated, and presumably meant as a precursor to Lydia’s running away with Wickham in “Pride and Prejudice.”
Becoming Jane is based on a chapter in Jon Spence's 2003 critical biography, Becoming Jane Austen. In the book, Spence does identify Tom Lefroy as the love of Austen's life and her relationship with him as the origin of her genius. But he never suggests that there was an aborted elopement (much less subsequent reading sessions with any of Lefroy's children). And he is careful, as the filmmakers are not, to clarify that in speculating about Austen's romantic experience he is reading between the lines of the family records and of the three rather opaque Austen letters that are his principal sources.
Deidre Lynch, See Jane Elope
I am listing only those reviews that reflect my take on the movie:
Illustration by Lara Tomlin, New Yorker