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Do You Need To See Emma?

emma

You may wonder why we have another version of Emma gracing our cinema screens right now? Yes, another adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma has just been released, directed by Autumn de Wilde and starring Anya Taylor-Joy.

Emma was originally written in 1815 – more than 100 years ago – by the illustrious Jane Austen. Smart as she certainly was, we have to ask ourselves – is the story of a meddling heroine of British society relevant to us now in 2020?

Watch the trailer for Emma.

We’ve already had so many versions of Emma – from as early as 1948 we’ve had television mini-series and in 1996, Kate Beckinsale starred in a much-watched TV movie. In the same year, Gwyneth Paltrow starred as Emma in a film version!

Gwyneth paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow appears in a 1996 version of Emma

For many, the fabulous Clueless from 1995 was the best version of Emma (loosely based on the novel) because it transposed the setting from British society to an American high school. Clueless starred Alicia Silverstone and has been labelled ‘one of the best teen movies of all time.’

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Emma and Mr Knightley dancing at the ball

So does Emma stand the test of time?

It seems that ‘yes,’ Ms Austen still has the smarts to keep us entertained! Reviews of the new film have been mostly positive and with it’s amazing scenery of the British countryside, Emma is a visual feast.

The heroine herself is played by Anya Taylor-Joy in a sharp, incisive manner. But it’s Mr Knightley, played by Johnny Flynn, who keeps us compelled to soak up every last second of this film.

Director, Autumn de Wilde, has a background as a rock photographer and music video maker and so he brings a new eye to this Jane Austen story. He introduces us to Mr Knightley as he gallops through the countryside on his horse. We then watch Mr Knightley strip naked and slowly get dressed in all his fine, British attire.

Flynn plays Mr Knightley with an animal magnetism which is not quite ‘Austen-like’ but keeps us watching with bated breath. The film gives us an insight into the underlying sexual tensions between the characters and in the end, it’s this keen eye on what’s being left ‘unsaid’ which keeps us watching.

When the ball is held in the local inn, we all know exactly what’s happening and why there’s so much swooning and sighing going on! So yes, we are still interested and yes, Emma is still relevant, as long as you’re aware it’s pure fantasy and escapism!

Stellar cast get it all just right

This version of Emma has a stellar supportive cast, including Bill Nighy who plays Emma’s often-sick, recently-widowed father in impeccable style. Mia Goth plays Harriet, Emma’s ingenue, with such amazing naivete and eye-rolling wonder, we find ourselves empathising with her many times.

Mia Goth plays Emma’s ingenue, Harriet.

Miranda Hart is excellent as the wordy Miss Bates. Josh O’Connor is a revelation as Mr Elton and Callum Turner plays Frank Churchill as the cad in an impeccable manner.

All up, this film has a great cast of British talent, stunning costumes and sets – and along with the musical renditions by the main characters and the light touch of comedy throughout, it’s definitely an enjoyable film to watch at the cinema.

So in answer to our opening question, you may not need to see Emma. But if you do, you’ll enjoy it!

Written by Pamela Connellan

Journalist and blogger, Pamela Connellan enjoys a good film or show. Reviewing these is in her blood and she’s happy to be writing these reviews for The Carousel - so stay tuned.

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