by Staff Writer Tanisha Srivatsa
Based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, Emma. falls nothing short of a success. The directorial debut by American photographer and music video director Autumn de Wilde, Emma. brings the 19th-century satire-turned-romance story alive through a cohesive blend of extraordinary acting and impressive costume design. The plot follows titular character Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) through her ridiculous antics to set Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) up with dashing young farmer Robert Martin (Connor Swindells), while herself entangled in a complicated love triangle between George Knightley (Johnny Flynn) and Frank Churchhill (Callum Turner). Highly anticipated by Austen fans worldwide, Emma. manages to live up to expectations while introducing a bold, multidimensional Emma for a new generation.
Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma
From its sweeping wide shots to its gorgeous, ever-changing landscape, Emma. presents a veritable bouquet of visual brilliance that sets this film apart from the myriad of previous adaptations. It excels in its delightfully charming costume design, featuring exquisitely detailed pinafores and petticoats deserving of a period film of this caliber, as well as its stunning use of the Gloucestershire landscape — especially in one particularly touching scene between Emma and Mr. Knightley, where the vibrant foliage and idyllic hills set the tone for the emotional dialogue that follows.
Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn)
Emma.’s talented cast also lends a hand to its success; Taylor-Joy’s nuanced portrayal of Emma stands out as the actress deftly walks the line between meddlesome brat and virtuous pariah, naively sheltered yet wholeheartedly generous. Her acting brings the audience closer to the film as an unconventional heroine that learns to understand love for what it is. Playing a sprightly hypochondriac who sorely wants to keep his daughters close to home after his wife’s death, Bill Nighy’s adept reimagining of Mr. Woodhouse provides bouts of strategically-placed comedic relief; between tumbling down the stairs to protest a wedding he deems “a tragedy” and repeatedly complaining of a mysterious cold draft, he delivers a particularly endearing performance of a relatable father.
The factors that make Emma. so truly enjoyable lie in its relatability to a variety of audiences. Diehard fans of the novel and casual watchers alike can unite before a heroine with enough spunk, wit, and grace to charm the hearts of millions of viewers. Further, the romantic dramedy the film offers is enough to appeal to anyone’s sense of humor. The altogether winning elements of de Wilde’s lush scenery and the cast’s meaningful interpretations of their characters meld together a most delightful treat for all viewers. If there is anything to dislike about Emma., it’s the punctuation at the end of the title — but even this can be excused by the fact that it’s a “period” piece. Overall, Emma. is a worthy testament to its original source material, providing both a memorable theater experience and an appropriate homage to Austen’s masterful literary work.