TV Review: “Anne” Season 1 – Dark & Enchanting

Written by Caitlin Cooper May 12, 2017

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Anne of Green Gables is one of my favourite classic stories. I fell in love with the well-known films from the 80s starring Megan Follows and the book by L.M. Montgomery as a kid. In the last couple of years, there have now been two re-makes. I’m a little protective of the one I grew up with, so it’s hard to imagine the story with a different cast and told in a different way. However, CBC’s Anne pleasantly surprised me.

 

Anne tells the story of Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty), and orphaned girl who is mistakenly sent to Marilla (Geraldine James) and Matthew Cuthbert (R.H. Thomson). Though they had intended to adopt a boy, Anne’s charm and liveliness warms her to them, and she finds a family like she always wanted. Anne faces the drama of growing up, frustrating boys like Gilbert Blythe (Lucas Jade Zumann), and the struggles of living during that time. But she does it with her imagination, and with her newfound family and friends.

“Girls can do anything a boy can do.”

What immediately sets Anne apart from previous adaptations is its tone. It gives a more dark and realistic take on Montgomery’s story. Sometimes, this works greatly in the show’s favour: it offers a fresh perspective on a classic story. Whereas the movies from the 80s were full of imagination and bursting with Anne’s big personality, Anne tends to be more subtle and seeks to build the characters in interesting ways. But sometimes I feel like something has been lost. Rachel is supposed to be a gossip with big opinions and no hesitation to voice them. I love her character on the show, but because she begins as a busy-body, her sudden switch to a caring and thoughtful character is not only jarring but out of place. Anne is supposed to hold a grudge against Gilbert for calling her carrots. Where is that dynamic? It’s the thing that defines their relationship until she grows up and forgives him. Nobody can hold a grudge like Anne. In the last few episodes of the season, there’s added character death and even attempted suicide. If I didn’t know how the story was supposed to go, it wouldn’t bother me as much as it does. But these events drastically change the show and set characters on different paths. I’m not sure if I’m okay with that. Sometimes it feels like Anne departs from the books just for the sake of being dark and setting itself apart.

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I may have some issues with the direction the show is going, but I can’t deny that the show does relationships really well. Anne’s newfound family is a joy to watch. The script and the acting make it clear in subtle ways that they love each other. And Gilbert’s lingering looks at Anne during spelling bees and in town speak volumes. Mostly, the show is so refreshing and just plain good. I applaud the cast for being so well suited to their roles. McNulty is a newcomer, but she mostly seems lie she was made for the part. She knows when to be over-the-top, and when to be quiet. Lucas Jade Zumann as Gilbert is fascinating, and the dynamic between McNulty and Zumann makes me eager for season 2.

“I make up stories all the time.”

It’s hard when a beloved series is re-made again and again, but Anne manages to capture the hearts of its audience. Sure, sometimes the show would’ve benefited from staying true to the characters and L.M. Montgomery’s books. But aside from these instances, the show is captivating. Anne could put Canada on the map; we aren’t exactly a country known for its contributions to the film and television industry. But this show brings out my Canadian pride. 2017 is Canada 150, and if there’s one thing you do this year to celebrate, you should watch Anne.

Anne, originally airing on CBC, will be available on Netflix May 12th.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin Cooper

Caitlin is an avid watcher of movies and television shows so she decided to use her passion to write about them. She has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a Minor in Creative Writing.

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