Anne of Green Gables has been remade, adapted, and updated so many times they might as well call it the iphone of female literature. So when I saw that there was a new series coming out in 2017 I was skeptical that it’d just be another disappointment. To me, the 1985 TV specials were the closest anyone has gotten to capturing the magical nature of Anne’s world as written in the original novels.
I was entirely wrong.
The 2017 series “Anne” manages to seamlessly weave together both the dark past that Anne has endured and the magical, optimistic, novel-esque world Anne chooses to see in Green Gables. It does this through a charmingly perfect cast, attention to detail in storyline, and devotion to depicting Green Gables in all its beauty through cinematography. Never before has any adaptation checked all these boxes. It’s absolutely ethereal.
Anne is played by 15-year-old Amybeth McNulty, who somehow manages to make Anne’s heavy dialogue (“But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”) look authentic and honest. Amybeth also captures Anne’s past trauma and PTSD-episodes with striking precision and emotion, while snapping back into Anne’s imaginative, optimistic world. Her facial expressions alone in times of anxiety make the line “I like imagining better than remembering,” seem totally honest. Her performance has so many dimensions it practically requires the viewer to rent out an entire IMAX theater to contain it all.
Geraldine James and R.H. Thomson are perfect as Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, but perhaps the second-most important performance is that of Gilbert, whose character is carried throughout the entire novel series as a once-enemy, now-friend to Anne, and eventually-husband. The writers have added a bit more dimensionality to his character’s storyline as well, and Lucas Jade Zumann (who was also phenomenal in 20th Century Women, I might add) does a miraculous job at adding much more heart to a character that could easily be played as a cocky popular kid, but instead has a rich backstory with kind intent.
None of this is a surprise once you find out that one of the head writers for the series is Moira Walley-Beckett, best known for her work on Breaking Bad. She adds another layer of character development to an already rich story, while still staying true to the plot of the books and original dialogue.
The cinematography for the series is reminiscent of Joe Wright and Terrance Malick. The landscape of Prince Edward Island, where it was both filmed and based, it breathtakingly captured in wide-angle, lens-flare, perfectly-color-graded glory. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll realize Anne doesn’t seem so crazy when she waxes poetic about the fantastic scenery. The color grading and use of natural light adds grittiness and depth that other Anne of Green Gables films were unable to capture. There’s also plenty of close-up shots of Anne’s freckled face staring in wonderment at the world around her, or wearing a flower crown, or running across giant fields — to the viewer tuning halfway through they might think they’ve stumbled upon Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice or Malick’s Tree of Life, and the greenery just adds to that.
Lucy Maud Montgomery would be proud to see that her Anne has finally been given the cinematography, the cast, and the story she deserves on screen. In the book, L.M. Montgomery writes (as Anne), “It’s delightful when your imaginations come true, isn’t it?” And, thanks to this new series, I think I finally know what she means.
(cheesy ending but i’m tired and it’s 2017, pls just let me end it that way. if you have any better ideas, by all means, show up at my blanket fort where i’m likely in seclusion, rereading the entire series, and yell at me.)
Written for my op-ed class in April 2017