TV & CULTURE

Review—Netflix’s Anne with an E

April 15, 2020

Bridey Ellis

It’s hard to become obsessed with watching a series with so many options right at our fingertips. But driven by well-thought out plot lines, stunning cinematography and breathtaking costume design, Anne with an E, an adaptation of the original 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables written by Lucy Maud Montgomery, shines through as a series too good to be missed. It’s a three-season epic to be binge watched to your heart’s content. 

Anne, a thirteen-year old orphan portrayed by Amybeth McNulty, a fiery and lovable Canadian-Irish actress, is overwhelmingly positive and so in love with life that it’s almost jarring. McNulty’s portrayal of Anne is so enthusiastic and enigmatic to a fault that you can’t help but keep watching to see what happens to her. Although you think no one could be this happy about going to school, her optimism becomes the best thing about watching her story; it’s a welcome breath of fresh air, dominating the series alongside the aesthetic cinematography that accompanies her journey, filmed on the beautiful Prince Edward Island off the eastern coast of Canada. 

Having lost both her parents as a baby, Anne spends most of her childhood at an orphanage before she is adopted by the lonely Cuthberts. Emerging from the darkest times of her life, facing loneliness and bullying, Anne reinvents herself in Avonlea as a talented student in the classroom, harnessing her knowledge to prove herself as an irreplaceable member of the community. She even wins the affections of her best friend Diana through her desire for kinship. She doesn’t always win the battles thrown at her, but that’s what makes her triumphs so much sweeter. You can’t help but root for her. 

Although the perceivable narrative arc of the show is Anne’s shortcomings, triumphs and missteps, ultimately the series is illuminated by the rose-coloured glow of its multiple love stories. On one hand, there is the familial love story between the Cuthberts and Anne. Siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are represented as an anomaly of their time, as both are unmarried and without children. Matthew is shy and endearing, while Marilla is cautious. However, this is upended when Anne breathes newness and fire into their lives. There is a distinct before Anne, and after Anne life. On the other hand, the romantic love story between Anne and the intelligent and charming Gilbert Blythe is what keeps viewers hooked; watching for signs that they could confess their feelings for one another, that the two smartest kids in the class could let their guards down is a nailbiter. Another example is the burgeoning friendship between Gilbert and the hardworking and loyal Trinidadian Sebastian “Bash” Lacroix which even sees them living together. Anne with an E presents love in all its forms—in friendships, in school crushes, in same sex relationships, in family life, across social classes, and last but not least, in unrequited love. It’s what makes the show inevitably shine

Anne With an E, while maintaining its whimsical and lighthearted moments, also explores the complex themes of racism, class difference and misogyny, which add another dimension to the show—enriching its narrative and character development. Although the show explores these tough issues, Anne With An E also so brilliantly highlights the need to foster community and to be able to lean on each other in hard times. It appeals to audiences universally in its exploration of the human spirit to persevere through tough times. 

This is a series to be cherished and—since the series was cancelled in January of this year—it is so sad that we won’t be able to watch Anne throughout her years beyond high school. The Candian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) said the show simply didn’t have enough viewers, especially in the 25 to 54 age range, and therefore didn’t reach its target. However, I have never been so dazzled by beautiful scenery, costume design, and a narrative that makes you feel that you have really been let into another world. I can’t wait for the next series that gives me the same feeling, but I have a feeling that an adaptation like Anne with an E is a rare find.