Cosmo Jarvis, Henry Golding and Richard E. Grant also star in this reworking of Jane Austen’s last completed novel, the feature debut of London stage director Carrie Cracknell.

Jane Austen purists will be aghast, but if you go with director Carrie Cracknell’s playful makeover of the author’s ruminative last completed novel into a buoyant Regency rom-com,

you could be pleasantly surprised. Freely mixing language lifted from Austen’s prose with distinctly modern words and attitudes —

this is a movie in which someone is described as “electrifying” in a pre-electric age — Persuasion is sufficiently bold and consistent with its flagrant liberties to get away with them.

It also helps that the novel’s long-suffering protagonist, Anne Elliot, has been given irrepressible spirit and an irreverent sense of irony in Dakota Johnson’s incandescent performance.

It’s easy to argue that Austen’s darkest, most mature novel was never meant to be treated like Emma, but Johnson, in her most lighthearted role to date, makes us complicit in Anne’s wry take on early 19th century mores. 

That goes in particular for her deadpan self-knowledge as a free-thinking young woman who’s an outsider in her class-conscious, cash-strapped family, 

not to mention one still simmering in regret over a spurned love and now approaching an age that makes her almost unmarriageable by the standards of the day.

Never mind that the luminous Johnson will be nobody’s idea of a spinster outshone by her narcissistic sisters.