Monday, May 29, 2017

Movie Monday: Anne with an E

Anne with an E
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

Film Title: Anne with an E

Book Title: Anne of Green Gables
Release Year: 2017

Summary: It's L. M. Montgomery's classic story, but with some modern additions and attitudes.

What I Thought: I know there are so many feelings out there on the Internet about this series. As when I talked about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, I feel a bit superfluous adding my voice to the cacophony. However, I want to get a conversation going. I know all you Anne-lovers out there have feelings about this series and I want to talk about them! So, consider this a mashup between Movie Monday and Let's Talk About.... Just know, there are spoilers ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

Let's start at the beginning. It is, after all, a very good place to start... wait...wrong movie. 

Before I watched even a minute of this series, I read Sarah Bessey's amazing post about it. If you've been around the blog a while, you know I love Bessey. I trust her with both matters of faith and Anne-loving. She's Canadian, so she got to see the series before the rest of us. Her post is phenomenal, so you really should go read it before you read my thoughts. She's so much more eloquent than I. 

Ok, are you back?

Reading Bessey's blog post helped me mentally prepare for the series. I wasn't expecting the 80s version. I grew up with the 80s version. I love the 80s version. I knew it before I ever knew the books. I am definitely in the generation who will first and always know Anne as Megan Follows. Even now, when I see Follows as the conniving Queen Catherine on Reign, I see her as Anne first. It makes watching the show a bit confusing at times. Anyway...

This new Anne, Amybeth McNulty, is nothing like Follows. She is awkward and gangly and perfect. She is the uncomfortable Anne who struggles to fit in, who says the wrong thing, who never feels quite at home. She is delightful. I felt a kinship with her within the first 10 minutes. We see things through her eyes, yes, but we also see things through the eyes of the adults around her. The writing and directorial choices show how quirky Anne is and how she would come off as such an outsider. 

The first episode has some flashbacks to Anne's time before Green Gables. They are tough to watch, though not exceptionally graphic. In many ways, the Anne we meet here is showing signs of PTSD. She is broken and confused. I was grateful for those flashbacks; they gave her character a depth and reality that I think most adaptations miss. I was also grateful that they were short and there were no suggestions of worse things happening to Anne, though some horrible abuses are well within the imagination of adult viewers. 

I adored that Anne is, as show creator Moira Walley-Beckett says, "an accidental feminist." When she gave her first little speech to Marilla about chore equality between genders, my reaction was, "Yessss...Anne is woke!" There are some pointedly obvious moments of modern feminism throughout the series and not just from Anne. While it feels a bit over the top at times, I really like the nod to the modern audience. And, really, who can't get behind Anne saying, "It doesn't make sense that girls aren't allowed to do farm work when girls can do anything a boy can do and more. Do you consider yourself to be delicate and incapable? Because I certainly don't."? In this same vein, the episode where Anne gets her period is beyond perfect. I was both laughing and completely sympathizing. 

I both loved and hated that Gilbert was so chivalrous from the very start. The little actor playing him, Lucas Jade Zumann, is perfect. He's not Jonathan Crombie, that's true. But I like this fresh take on Gilbert. The writers are positioning him to be the one who grounds Anne, rather than her grounding him, as in the 80s version. It's a change I like, though I can see how it would frustrate others. I definitely loved that he was running his own house. It sets up the balance of their future marriage so well. If Netflix makes it that far, I look forward to seeing how the adjustments to their characters now will play out for their characters in the future. His father being sick also sets up his desire to be a doctor. From there, though, I don't love the changes they made to his character. Making him an orphan, having him leave town to work at the docks...I didn't like any of that. I understand it sets him up to better connect with Anne, but I think his story was perfectly fine without inserting so much tragedy into his life. Of course, this adaptation inserts tragedy wherever it can.

Speaking of, we should probably talk about all that tragedy. There's a lot of it. Much of it does come from the original series. However, there is plenty that has been added in. I don't know if the writers felt the need to keep things exciting and dangerous all the time for modern audiences, but this is one of the places I think they missed the mark. We don't need constant excitement and drama and tragedy. Anne herself is enough. I don't mind all the changes; I like how Marilla and Anne had to work so hard to save Green Gables. That felt true to their characters. However, having Matthew contemplate suicide, even briefly, or having Gilbert's father die - those things felt over the top to me. 

There are a lot of articles that are calling this version gritty and dark. I don't think those are quite the right words. They are more accurate for the final two episodes, but I don't think they fit the series as a whole. I think a better word is realistic. This version doesn't carry the sheen of fantasy. Rather, it holds explanations for why such a sheen might be applied in the first place. It made me cry several times, both with joy and sorrow. It felt real. It's not a fairy tale, but, really, L. M. Montgomery's books are not either.

So, those are my thoughts after this first season. I'm anxious to see where they go from here. It's gotten completely lambasted from many critics, but I think the real test is going to be how devoted Anne fans feel about it. I, for one, did enjoy it quite a bit. I don't love the way they ended the season, but I have hope that the strong reactions will steer them closer to the books in future seasons. 

P.S. The History Chicks are doing an episode-by-episode critique. Their podcast is great to begin with, so I'm looking forward to hearing their take on the series as well. 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Watch: Yes. I think I will. If nothing else, I'll be watching future seasons.

A Reduced Review: It's not perfect, but it's real and heartfelt. This Anne adaptation has won me over despite a tough reception from critics. The real question is, what did you think? 


  1. You made some very good points! Amybeth was made for the role! I like this Gilbert - that he wasn't a habitual teaser of girls but trying desperately to get Anne's attention and his cheeky response after getting hit with the slate. He is more of a gentleman and, not only chooses to overlook Anne's past because he likes her but genuinely sees it as irrelevant. Gilbert is a bit arrogant and likes to see himself as the hero, which Anne will temper in time.

    Agree that the way they chose to get rid of Gilbert for a bit is a bit contrived, but that means that want things to happen in his absence that could not happen the same way if he was there. For example, Anne figures that she can take Billy in a fight, after Gilbert's threat, Billy is more likely to pick a fight with Anne in his absence - and I am eager to see Anne beat Billy in a fight. As far as the cliff hanger - we know they keep the farm - so that tells us a certain amount how it turns out.

    1. I love everything you said here - especially about Gilbert.

      You're right about the cliffhanger, too. We know they will keep the farm. I guess the suspense for me is more about wondering how long they will drag out that storyline and try to make us believe Green Gables is in danger when we know it is not.

  2. So far, the cliff-hangers have all been resolved the very next episode.

    What were Anne and Jerry arguing about before he sang the French children's song about shepherdess (Anne) and the cat (Jerry)? Even when Anne was having trouble with a form of math that she had never seen before, she did not ask for help but tried to figure it out for herself. Anne will accept help when given, but usually tries to solve things herself. Jerry made and offer that I hope Anne takes him up on.

    After reading an article on the period episode detailing the red on white symbolism throughout the episode, thought about hair colour. The bearded one red like Anne and the other one dark like Jerry (friend) or Gilbert (love interest). They seem to have little regard for anyone but each other. Figure we will get the backstory. This series seems to have backstories all over the place.

  3. I did not catch that with the song. I'll have to go back and rewatch that. I did like that this series created more of a sibling-like relationship between Anne and Jerry.

    The info on the color symbolism is fascinating! I'd love to read that article!

    1. They were arguing over whether Anne was capable of something or not - future plot hint? - and then Anne said that she would strangle Jerry with her bare hands if he did not stop singing the song - the choice of song sort of reveals that Jerry knew that would be her reaction.

      The Period symbolism article

      Song -

    2. Interesting article! Thanks for sharing!