Photo Credit: Netflix/CBC
Hey guys! I’m just kicking off a bit of a review dump! I hope you guys don’t mind as a few of these are a bit older and a few of these go with my ShOR 365 that I’m attempting. (It’s not going very well but we’re still attempting it.) Anyway, here is the first review!
This is not your mother’s Anne of Green Gables. In fact, it’s not even your grandmother’s Anne either. The precocious eleven-year-old redhead had a resurgence in popularity thanks to the 1985 CBC mini-series which stared Collen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, and Megan Follows. Follows and Johnathon Crombie, the titular Anne and Gilbert Blythe, catapulted the mini-series into an instant classic which is still showed on PBS stations every year around Christmas.
Since then, Anne has been trying to stage a comeback and the endeavors have pretty much failed to capture the attention of American audiences until Netflix and Breaking Bad writer Moira Walley-Beckett decided to take a stab at the 1908 novel by L.M. Montgomery and can we just say that it’s a gorgeous stab?
Anne with an E, or simply Anne for Canadian audiences, is a re-imagining that has some flaws and that’s okay because the end result is actually quite pretty and well done enough that it’ll capture the hearts and imaginations of a brand new generation of children and maybe some adults as well.
Series star Amybeth McNulty is a perfect fit for this new Anne. She embodies the redhead almost as much as Follows did. There is still a whimsy to her that the dark tone of the series tries to stamp out but McNulty fights against it, much of how this iteration of Anne fights against nineteenth-century misogyny and bullying. There are times where McNulty feels a little forced in Anne’s throes of passionate speeches but, honestly, it only happens when she is beating fruitlessly against the relentlessly dark tone.
That is perhaps one of the only flaws this series has. Beckett has transformed Avonlea to very unforgiving and harsh place that judges Anne for not only her red hair and flighty personality but her status as an orphan. The horrible things that Anne had to experience in her past have somehow marred her in the eyes of Avonlea citizens. They view her as someone (or rather something) that doesn’t belong in their pristine province and, while that is more in the line of how small towns in the nineteenth century worked, that just isn’t Anne of Green Gables.
Anne, in the books and the original mini-series, wins over the small town mentality by her sheer force of will and her quirky demeanor. In Anne with an E, she must prove herself to be worthy of living in the town and associating with the people in it. In a scene made specifically for the series, Anne is finally accepted after racing into the burning Gillis home to shut all the windows and doors because she’s smart enough to know that fire feeds on oxygen. It’s like all the progressive tendencies in Avonlea has been stripped away so Anne has, even more, to fight against for acceptance.
The partial silver lining in all of this is Gilbert Blythe, played handsomely by newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann. He arrives back in school after taking care of his father and immediately proclaims that “a cute girl is a cute girl” despite the fact that she is an orphan. The chemistry between McNulty and Zumann isn’t quite there yet but we are still early in their relationship and there are definitely sparks between them. Personally, I can’t wait to see how their relationship pans out. However, I say “partial silver lining” at the beginning of this paragraph for a reason.
In the original mini-series and the novels, Gilbert and Anne’s relationship hinges solely on their academic rivalry which blossoms into something more. Beckett, only ramping up the darkness and the suffering, kills Mr. Blythe and ships Gilbert to the docks of Charlottetown and away from school and away from Anne and their rivalry. It’s a huge departure from the original novels and it’s not for the better. In fact, I think this will serve to be a major weakness in future seasons to come. How are Anne and Gil going to have their rivalry if Gil’s not even school? It makes absolutely no sense and I’m not sure why it was changed.
There are definitely some other flaws present but that would take up an entire another page and a half and I won’t let you readers suffer through it but just know that this isn’t the Crombie/Follows version of Anne of Green Gables. Anne with an E is dark, unrelentingly so, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good way to introduce new audiences to the character. Despite the dark tone, Anne is beautifully shot. The first episode alone deserves an award for cinematography. Whoever directed that episode needs to direct all of them. It would make a lovely dichotomy that I wouldn’t mind watching.
In all, Netflix has another hit on their hands but it won’t equal to the success of Stranger Things simply because of all the changes they’ve made to the original source text. Couple that with the inevitable comparisons to the classic mini-series and Netflix may have to straighten some things out before Anne with an E is on par with the mini-series and before a possible season two is announced.