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Movie Review | Emma. [2020]

If you are an ardent Jane Austen fan, then it is hard not to love her story of Emma, written in 1815. It is also hard to think that another screen adaptation of Emma could be a success, especially after the 2009 BBC miniseries, which was fantastic! When I saw the trailer of the latest version, directed by Autumn de Wilde, I wondered whether this one might be trying too hard and would get it wrong.

Let me allay any concerns straight away. Without hesitation, I can say that Emma is simply wonderful - from beginning to end. It is elegant and charming - from beginning to end, and it is a visual delight - from beginning to end. The palette of gentle hues and colours, the idyllic landscapes, the ornate period costumes and the attention to detail are all completely captivating and a feast for the eyes.

It is as if every scene is the most beautiful impressionist painting come to life and all you want to do is step into the painting. (If by some strange twist of fate you are not a die-hard Jane Austen fan, then simply go and watch the movie for this reason - you won’t be disappointed). Even though the plot has been simplified, the thread of Jane Austen’s original story is intact, and the script is sophisticated and witty, moving the plot forward at a pleasing pace. The casting is superb, with each character adding their own unique nuance and depth to the plot. I was determined to not like Mr Knightley in this movie adaptation (played by Johnny Flynn), as I simply adored George Knightley (played by Johnny Lee Miller) in the 2009 BBC miniseries. But I have to admit, and much to my surprise, I was won over as Johnny Flynn’s version is believable, endearing, and a true gentleman. Then of course, you have Mrs Bates (played by Miranda Hart) and Emma’s father, (played by Bill Nighy) - who absolutely shine in their comedic supporting roles, and take this movie to another level. Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), whom Emma has taken under her wing, is extremely lovable and winsome. Let’s talk about Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) who is one of Jane Austen’s heroines and the reason for the story. In this version, Emma is consistent to her character, which for the most part, may seem one-dimensional. She does not try to make us love her, her flaws are not downplayed, and she does not apologise for her selfishness and snobbery, believing her motives to be good. As the plot progresses, her self-awareness of her destructive meddling comes slowly and subtly, as does the acknowledgement of her feelings and love for Mr Knightley. Emma, as a romantic comedy, is simply wonderful and an absolute delight. The story is light-hearted and engaging, and if you are new to Jane Austen, you are likely to fall in love with her compelling characters and Regency England. I think Jane would be proud.


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