Review: Emma

Rating: 5 Stars

As a Jane Austen fan, I was thrilled by the prospect of another adaptation of Emma, my favourite of all her novels. The trailer had made Autumn De Wilde’s version look amazing. It did not disappoint. I had been anticipating its release for months, and planning to see it with my mum, another Austen fan, for ages. We planned to go and see it when I came home for reading week.

So, last week I went to see the film with my family at a local cinema. I was very excited for both a family trip out and the prospect of a brilliant film. With what was left of the popcorn in the bucket clutched in my hand, we found our seats and watched the story unfold.

The first thing I would like to applaud this adaptation for was how funny it was. Emma reads like a comedy, therefore I have always been surprised when previous adaptations have not picked up on this and highlighted the humour. De Wilde’s film brilliantly brought the charisma and wit of Austen to the screen. There were some extra moments which were not originally in the book, but I really enjoyed these and thought they added to the plot – this is a big thing for me to admit because normally I hate any addition to a story. Without giving away any spoilers, I have to say I loved the extended ending. The closing of Austen’s novel feels a little rushed as we are given a summary of what happens to everyone at the end, rather than a detailed picture. In this film, we were shown it unfold instead. This heightened the element of romance and the feeling of warmth. It was beautiful to watch.

The casting was, in my opinion, spot on. Anya Taylor-Joy, playing Emma, acted and looked the part really well, leaving me nothing to criticise. Johnny Flynn as Mr Knightley was perfect, bringing a refreshingly emotional and human side to the part, which made me love the character more than I did originally. Ever since the trailer, I was thrilled Bill Nighy was to play Mr Woodhouse, and I was interested to see him presented differently than in other adaptations. Although still a kind of invalid, this adaptation put him more in the light of a comical “valetudinarian”, which any diligent reader of Emma can see hints of through the novel’s pages. Finally, my praises must go to Miranda Hart as Miss Bates. Although I had always imagined Miss Bates to be older, Miranda flawlessly balanced all the traits of this character, bringing her to life. I cannot mention every cast member, although I would love to because I thought they all came together to deliver a masterpiece.

Not only this, but the set design was beautiful and uplifting. The colours of the film were pastel and vibrant, meaning the visual aesthetic reflected the light-hearted and optimistic tone of the story. Alexandra Byrne’s costume design was both accurate and sophisticated – I was more than envious of some of Emma’s dresses.

My dad has never touched an Austen novel before, barely even making it through an adaptation. Yet this time, he stayed focused throughout the entire film and laughed at all the jokes. My youngest sister also came with us. She is thirteen, so I was worried she wouldn’t understand what was going on, particularly as she had not read Austen before. In the end, I had no reason to worry for her because she understood the entire plot and also really enjoyed herself. This film is, therefore, a friend to the Austen fan and to the Austen stranger. I would highly recommend it to everyone. And, for the first time in one of my reviews, I am excited to give it a five star rating.

– Eleanor Braham

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