Title: Anne with an E (Anne)
Country of Origin: Canada
Screenplay: Moira Walley-Beckett
Starring: Annybeth Mcnulty, Geraldine James, RH Thomson, Lucas Zumann
I had the pleasure of reading Anne of Green Gables last year and completely fell in love with it the way I fell in love The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There is an appreciation for the Canadian wilderness and the little quaint town that Anne becomes a part of. Anne, our intrepid protagonist, though someone I probably would have hated in real life is somehow just so endearing and amusing on the page and her resourcefulness and optimism is inspirational even though you were kind of annoyed with her for being so obnoxious.
My exposure to Anne of Green Gables before reading the book was the PBS version where her red hair is super saturated and orange and I watched the 1985 version as well where Anne was a little more naive. They were sort of perfect for me at the time but I was still so excited when I heard about this version. It went above and beyond my expectations. First off, the casting is brilliant, Annybeth is exactly how I feel Anne is described in the books and a perfect culmination of how others see her but how she sees herself as well. Her eyes are a little too wide apart, her skin is sallow and her face is long like a horse’s but it drastically lights up when she is imagining fantasy scenarios. She sees herself as plain but as we all know, Anne’s eternal optimism and zest for life is what’s so memorable about her character. I think Annybeth portrays all these different facets of Anne so well. Her zest for life, her melodramatic tendencies, her optimism, her charisma, her deep sorrow, and her inherent goodness all in this delicate balance. The acting is brilliant especially from the core characters, Matthew and Marilla, who embodied the essence of their characters so well but also added an individuality to the characters that kept this adaptation from being completely predictable. I could have done without so much detail into their past lives before they met Anne but I admit it does make the world more lush and lived in. I even love the additional characters that were not present in the book most prominently Jerry who is hired on to be a stableboy and is actually the most precious cinnamon roll ever. He provides much of the comic relief but is not there to just be the comic relief.
But, in addition to adding an individual flavor of character interpretation, I think the screenplay also added another side to the characters that we didn’t get to see in the books. But the different traits that they did add to the character was not jarring to me or seemed like a complete deviation from the original character. We know Marilla as a no nonsense sort of person but in the tv series, she is shown as having a dry sense of humor which fitted her character perfectly and I found myself laughing out loud at some of her one liners.
I think the characters are so well-rounded even if they were suppose to be side characters. I also really enjoyed how they portrayed character interactions together. I love that they really built upon the relationship between Anne, Marilla, and Matthew and we come to root for their little family throughout their hardships.
And can we talk about Gilbert?? Gilbert is to to die for. He is so precious. And again, I love the increased interaction between him and Anne that was not in the book. In the first book, they didn’t really talk at all until the very end and I like that the series establishes more of a plausibility between the two and I’m so looking forward to how their friendship/relationship is going to develop in the second season considering how this first season ends.
Now most of the negative reviews on Anne with an E really criticized how dark and gritty the show was; a show about Anne of Green Gables should not be this dark considering how optimistic and hopeful Anne is. The show switches between the present and Anne’s past at her foster home. The flashbacks reveal past trauma that was only hinted at in the book including the physical and mental abuse she suffered at the hands of her foster home. I think this was honestly a brilliant take on the adapting the story. When you’re reading the story, Anne’s past is only hinted at but it is clear her past plays a huge role in who she is now. With these flashbacks I really got to see just how much Anne’s resilience and perseverance has helped her endure the trials of her childhood. It also helps the viewer understand just why Anne desires being a part of a family so much. I also think that while this show is darker than the book, it’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’m so impressed with how much the show is able to keep the central tone of the books while also giving it a darker edge that does not disrupt the optimistic nature of the books. If anything, the darkness only makes the light moments even brighter.
Maintaining this optimistic nature but also emphasizing the dark moments of Anne’s past is executed exceedingly well through the show’s lighting and color scheme. And even though the color palette was often melancholy, gray, and dark, it was contrasted beautifully with the more blurry and bright morning scenes. I liked that a lot of the dark scenes are softened with with more muted colors which makes the scenes in the snow look like something out of a Christmas card. I love the cinematography and music. It is somber and intimate like when Gilbert is reading to his dad but full of possibility when it needs to be.
The show delves into taboo themes such as the roots of feminism and talking about a girl’s first period beyond surface level and does so with grace and humor never undermining the significance of the stages of a girl’s coming of age in the early 1900’s. It does not tackle its themes half-heartedly especially the themes of the effects of abuse on someone’s mental health. All of these themes are interwoven seamlessly with the larger overarcing theme of finding a place for oneself. I like that the show uses Anne’s different perspective and endearingly social tactlessness to accentuate these themes.
This show has recently been renewed for a second season and I’m seriously so excited. In all honesty, if this show continues to be at the quality of the first season, I’d want it to continue for 5 seasons so we can get to see Anne grow and develop till her adulthood as I know the books do. Many critical reviews have noted that this show is too dark but I found it to still be respectful to Anne’s past and her character and the dark themes only serve to emphasize just why Anne’s resilience and imagination have stayed so memorable throughout the years.