I am so excited about Anne With An E that I started writing this review before finishing the series (I have since watched all seven episodes). But before I get started, I should admit that I have not read the books (I know: blasphemous). However, I am a huge fan of the 1985 Anne of Green Gables mini-series, which I understand was a faithful reproduction. Any comparisons I make will be to the 1985 series, and not the books.
To be honest I was pretty nervous about seeing Anne With An E. I needn’t have worried. It is an exceptional rendition of everyone’s favorite smart, bold, dramatic, red-headed girl, and I highly recommend you watch it.
In this version, the general storyline is the same, apart from a few enjoyable twists. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out and have a depth that I don’t remember seeing in the 1985 series. Amybeth McNulty plays a fantastic Anne; she is spunky, fiery, and so authentic. I am really looking forward to knowing her better.
This adaptation is darker and more melancholy than its earlier counterpart, which has rubbed some people the wrong way. Certain flashbacks and subtle dialogue make the narrative grittier and not the same kind of wholehearted fun that was the 1985 version. I think this is a necessary and brilliantly inventive retelling of the classic story. To think that Anne was not traumatized and troubled by her past is a disservice to her character; we cannot truly appreciate her lightheartedness without understanding her sorrow and heartache.
One poignant quote in the first episode points to this compassion:
Anne: I never understood it. If children are such a burden, then why do people have so many of them? Nevertheless, it’s a shame I’ll never have the opportunity.
Marilla: What do you mean?
Anne: To be one.
Oh man, that cut deep.
I also noticed that Anne With An E really highlights Anne as a feminist icon. She’s always been one, of course, except this series really hits it out of the park. In Episode Six Anne says firmly, “I’ll be the heroine in my own story.” In Episode Three, Marilla is visited by a couple of women from the Progressive Mothers’ Sewing Circle, an organization of “mothers who gather to discuss the education of [their] young girls”. She attends the next meeting, where other members talk about changing the school curriculum to be more gender-neutral, and hoping to see their daughters attend university.
That still did not prepare me for what came next: the open discussion (and celebration) of menstruation. Yes! Menstruation! They actually used the word! It was amazing to see it addressed so matter-of-factly and without any pretense or discomfort. Which makes total sense! I mean, when you read old timey books or watch old timey movies, don’t you wonder what happens when girls and women get their period? But nobody ever talks about that. Imagine what it was like then if we’re only now breaking the taboo. Obviously, I was beyond thrilled to see this be a good chunk of an episode.
A final difference that I enjoyed was learning more about Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert’s background. Not much was explained in the 1985 series, only a few allusions to unrequited love, but this version gives both their characters a lot more depth. I don’t know whether it’s uncharted territory (i.e., it wasn’t in the original books), but I for one am really liking where it’s headed.
Alright, so those are my initial thoughts on the new Netflix adaptation. I might write more as I finish absorbing and digesting the past several hours. Again, if you haven’t seen it, please do. If you have, tell me what you thought!