The miniseries Anne on the CBC has now finished the first season and is headed to Netflix (as Anne with an E). Our beloved Anne Shirley from Lucy Maude Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables book series has been re-imagined for the new millennium and it is not your mother's (or grandmother's) Anne! For those who don't know the LM Montgomery books, Anne Shirley is an orphan sent to be adopted by unmarried siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert who were expecting a boy to help out on the farm in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. Anne is picked up by Matthew at the train station and the mix-up doesn't get explained to Anne until she arrives at the idyllic Green Gables farm in Avonlea. Many of us grew up reading about Anne, Diana and Gilbert and this is the latest adaptation for television.
|Amybeth McNulty and RH Thomson as Anne and Matthew in Anne with an E|
I'll try to sum it up by saying that you'll either love it or you'll hate it, and possibly both simultaneously. Having written about period dramas for 7 years now, I've come to the realization that viewers have very strong opinions about new adaptations of old favourites. Some viewers want a verbatim version of the book, which is not only impossible, but would be boring. Some have already seen their definitive and beloved adaptation (in this case the 1980s version with Megan Follows) and anything else is heresy to them.
|Megan Follows as Anne and Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert from 1985 Anne of Green Gables|
I am fairly sure the latest generation of kindred spirits will truly enjoy Anne with an E, and hopefully their mothers and grandmothers will see that the timing was perfect for a brand new Anne. As much as I adore the Megan Follows version, the cinematography and scenery in Anne with an E will blow you away and make you want to pack your bags for P.E.I.
|Dalila Bela and Amybeth McNulty as Diana and Anne|
Anne with an E is an almost entirely female driven production which is a refreshing change for period drama which, although mostly consumed by females, is usually written, produced and directed by men. This is not the case here however. Moira Walley-Beckett of Breaking Bad fame is the Canadian screenwriter and was a producer. All of the producers are female and most of the directors are female. Interestingly, each episode was directed by a different person, although this is not apparent in the continuity of the series.
|Geraldine James as Marilla Cuthbert|
The acting is superb with English actress Geraldine James (who I remember as the uptight W.I. leader in Calendar Girls) as Marilla Cuthbert and Canadian stage and screen actor RH Thomson as her brother Matthew. Irish actress Amybeth McNulty is a truly wonderful Anne whose occasional misstep into hysteria can be forgiven because for the most part she is delightful. The supporting cast is also top notch including Lucas Jade Zumann from 20th Century Women as Gilbert Blythe.
|Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert Blythe|
Although he is a great actor, I am as yet unconvinced on Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert Blythe. Jonathan Crombie is still my Gilbert...sort of like my Mr. Darcy will always be Colin Firth. But he may grow on me as it seems we are going to get at least one more season of Anne.