Starring Kate Beckinsale, this adaptation of Jane Austen’s early work, Lady Susan, is a cinematic gem.

It comes as no surprise that writer-director Whit Stillman, maker of such droll modern-day comedies of manners as Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco, should prove perfectly in tune with the acid wit and sharp social perception of Austen.

Beckinsale is perfect in the leading role of young widow Lady Susan Vernon, a beautiful and cunning woman who makes Machiavelli look like a bumbling innocent when it comes to scheming.

Her co-stars, including Xavier Samuel, Chloë Sevigny and Stephen Fry, provide deft support, while Tom Bennett steals all his scenes as the likeable but sublimely foolish Sir James, suitor to Lady Susan’s reluctant daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark).

The delight he takes on being introduced to peas – ‘tiny green balls’ – is sure to produce joyful hilarity in the viewer, too.