Netflix review: ANNE WITH AN “E” (Season 1)

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Seriously?! I wasn’t even bored with too much time on my hands! I just wanted to watch something easy to get in and out of while I made lunch! I wasn’t expecting to get fully engulfed in anything! Sheesh!

Ugh, so about the only reason why I even selected this title in the first place was because it was being advertised with a big ole poster on the home screen. Didn’t know what it was, what it was about, nothing of that nature. In fact, it seemed like it was Hallmark Channel schmaltzy, and I just got through watching the Good Witch show! I wasn’t ready for another. But I needed something to watch and this jumped out at me, so… fine. I was going to give it a shot.

Turns out, the show (which is Canadian) is actually based on a book. Series? One sec… *one Wikipedia search later* Yes, book series. Though I think season one is particular to the first book, Anne of Green Gables, all written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery back in 1908. As it so happens, I guess this ain’t the first time this character of Anne has been adapted. The TV movies date as far back as 1919, throughout the 50’s, the 70’s, and even into the new millennium. Jeez, even the Japanese got their hands on this story and made it into an anime TV show, twice, one called ANNE OF GREEN GABLES (1979), and another called BEFORE GREEN GABLES (2009)… which was an adaptation of another book not by Montgomery that was a prequel to Montgomery’s original book. Give this book series some credit, it’s living on and from the looks of it, pretty strong.

The only thing I knew about the story before going in was that it takes place some time during the late 1800’s. That’s literally it.

Here’s the cast. Starring as the titular character is Amybeth McNulty, known for MORGAN (2016). Regular actors include Geraldine James (BEAST [2018], MEGAN LEAVEY [2017], and STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE [2016]), R.H. Thomson (CHLOE [2009], and the upcoming CLARA [2018]), Delila Bela (DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES [2011]), Lucas Jade Zumann (EVERY DAY [2018] and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN [2016]), Aymeric Jett Montaz (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of), Helen Johns (MISS SLOANE [2016]), Corrine Koslo (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of), and Kyla Matthews (stuff I’ve never seen or heard of). 

Now for the crew. There’s no consistent series director, and I’m not about to go through all eight of them, but the main series writer is Moira Walley-Beckett, known for 9 episodes of BREAKING BAD (2008 – 2013) and PAN AM (2011 – 2012). Co-composing the score is duo Amin Bhatia and Ari Posner, both known for stuff I’ve never heard of or seen. The cinematographer is Bobby Shore, known for GOON (2011). There is no regular series editor.

This is my honest opinion of: ANNE WITH AN “E” (Season 1)

 

(SUMMARY)

Set in the late 1800’s in the fictional town of Avonlea. The story follows Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty), a talkative and rambunctious, thirteen-year-old, red-haired orphan who was given the most wonderful news: that she’s been adopted by the aged Cuthbert siblings, Matthew (R.H. Thomson) and Marilla (Geraldine James). However, upon arrival, she learns a horrible truth. The Cuthberts had sent to the orphanage for a boy, not a girl, to help out with Matthew’s farm work. Despite many setbacks, Anne is eventually adopted as a Cuthbert and Anne navigates life in her new home in the Green Gables farm.

(REVIEW)

Well… talk about not judging a book by it’s cover. This was a kids book? For a presented picture on Netflix and a summary that does little to tell me exactly what I’m in for, this first season is staggeringly mature and even dark at time. Now, I don’t want to make it sound like it’s for a mature, “adults-only” audience, but something’s telling me that the book this is based in far less heavy in its themes. Perhaps it would be best if I simply said that I am drawn to this show and that I really like it.

Also, episode one, YOUR WILL SHALL DECIDE YOUR DESTINY is basically a movie. An hour and a half long. More if you consider episode two, I AM NO BIRD, AND NO NET ENSNARES ME, as episode one ends on a cliffhanger and and episode two wraps it up. So brace yourself. The rest of the episodes of the season are forty-five minutes.

One of the first things that went through my mind was that this should be brought to a psychology class. I feel like students, and even teachers, would have a field day with it. Initially, it’s easy to be put off when we first meet Anne on the train because she is annoyingly talkative. While harmless enough, I think that was the intention. But we eventually learn some harsh truths about her life before meeting Matthew, and as the show progresses in general. She was subjected to a lot of bullying at the orphanage, mocked for her passion for storytelling and imagination. She’s also always on about how she hates her red hair, thinks she’s ugly, has anger issues, and even signs of what I can only assume to be PTSD. Soon, it started to hit me. Anne is so talkative because it’s likely that she fears what happens in silence; being left alone with her thoughts and memories, which harbor nothing good. It’s a means to distract her and mask what she’s been through, despite her very nature being sweet, caring, inquisitive, and hopeful. But she also can’t stand it when people insult her with the very same insults that she throws at herself. She always says what’s on her mind, for better or ill, and has certainly netted her friends and enemies alike. This is exactly the kind of character that I adore. She feels like a real adolescent teenager. There’s inconsistency in her mannerisms, but they all come from a genuinely relatable place. When she makes a mistake, she apologizes for some, but stands her ground regarding others. True, she’s smart well-beyond her years, and as an uncultured swine of an American from the States, I may not be able to relate to her smarts, but I can relate to her struggles as someone who has been bullied and has been mocked, shunned, or humiliated for being themselves.

The supporting cast isn’t any different. Matthew is a delightfully reserved man who is almost immediately “bewitched” by Anne when he takes her home. Seriously, I don’t know how many words he actually speaks this entire season, but I absolutely love how he reacts to Anne. Perfectly opposite, yet Anne says it best: kindred spirits. He’s entirely sweet, compassionate, thoughtful, and wonderfully likable. And Marilla… what a piece of work. Stern, harsh, critical, she is easily not the most likable character in the show when you first meet her, but she has arguably the best arc. She’s never full-on detestable, outside of accusing Anne of stealing her family’s amethyst brooch, but when she realizes her own mistakes, she’s quick to rectify it as well. Even though Anne considers she and Matthew to be kindred spirits, there’s a lot of similarities between the two ladies as well. Both are not afraid to speak their mind, are stubborn and strong-willed, and both learn from each other in different ways. Soon, you grow to respect Marilla as someone who is simply a product of her own raising and life-circumstances, but isn’t afraid to open her mind to different possibilities and ways of thinking.

I enjoy Anne’s friendship with Diana (Dalila Bela), and how their differing social classes make for a friendship that’s hard to maintain, despite their mutual fondness of each other. I enjoy how so many people in the community are so against her, but Anne manages to win hearts and minds through her actions. Actually, these might go hand in hand, as one of my favorite episodes is episode six, REMORSE IS THE POISON OF LIFE. After Anne and Diana accidentally get drunk during an afternoon tea session, Diana’s mother Eliza (Helen Johns) has forbidden them from associating with each other ever again. This changes when Diana’s parents are otherwise gone from the house one night and Diana’s younger sister Josephine (Deborah Grover) falls deathly ill and Anne manages to save her life. Aside from the fact that the scene is incredibly tense and suspenseful, it shows just how smart Anne is and how practical her knowledge has proven to be. Good lesson in there somewhere. Read, and you can save someone’s life. Boy, I hope I’m never in that situation because whoever would need my help is royally screwed. Let’s just hope Anne’s nearby.

There’s so much to go through, despite this only being seven episodes long, but I honestly can’t wait to start watching season two. Netflix really should consider putting a better summary up because it’s woefully inaccurate to what’s really presented, and what’s presented is something uplifting, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, but ultimately fun, innocent, and surprisingly adult despite its younger target demographic of teenagers and young adults. I don’t know how the show scales up to the book, but I hope it’s a worthy adaptation, as I might pick it up to see for myself. As is, I really it and recommend anyone to check it out.

My honest rating for ANNE WITH AN “E” (Season 1): a strong 4/5

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