Masters of peddling the drug known as nostalgia, Netflix unveils a new show based on Anne of Green Gables. It’s excellent unless you’re a stickler for the source material. Anne with an E as Netflix calls it is a period piece taking place in the early 20th century. Based on a beloved novel from Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, the book is a classic taught to young adults all around the world. So, though Netflix is a master at creating shows that get viewers high on nostalgia, there’s always a measure of risk. How will people deal with changes to the source material and will those changes make or break the show?
If you’re not familiar with the novel (full disclosure: I was not), let’s get up to speed. Anne Shirley is an incredibly smart orphaned girl who’s bounced from homes to orphanages for most of her young life. Elderly siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert run Green Gables, a farm that’s slowly becoming too much for them to handle. The siblings request a boy to help, but Anne is accidentally sent instead. From there on out, the young orphan is doing everything she can to keep her new life which includes school, friends, boys, and lots of imagination.
Hardcore purists, most likely, won’t like Anne with an E.
Anne with an E and the story from which it comes is entirely carried by Anne Shirley. So, without an actress capable of making the fast-talking Anne charming and inviting the show would collapse quickly. Here, Anne is played by Amybeth McNulty who does a phenomenal job. Anne is a girl far too smart for her age. Because of that, Anne says and does things in a way that’s almost alien. McNulty effortlessly spews out dialogue which is often both long and filled with big, complicated words. McNulty’s bright eyes, smile, and ability to exude Anne’s incredible imagination is simply fantastic and deserves recognition.
The rest of the cast is solid and features many veteran actors. Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes, 2009) plays Marilla Cuthbert, Anne’s stodgy adoptive mother. Delila Bela, who is Anne’s best friend, Diana, though only 15 years old, is also a veteran with appearances on the CW’s The 100 and Tomorrow People, as well as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Grave Encounters 2, and Once Upon A Time (Young Guinevere).
Gritty is a matter of perspective.
Many reviews on the new show complain about the gritty aspect of this version. Anne provides a healthy mix of fun, provided by McNulty’s flights of fancy and whip-smart dialogue and plenty of drama. There’s a bit more focus on Anne’s past trauma that’s revealed through brief flashbacks. Of course, our sense of gritty here at Monkeys Fighting Robots is Batman V. Superman or Logan. Gritty is a matter of perspective.
For eight episodes, the Netflix show provides plenty of great moments, both sad and triumphant. And like any good show, it ends on a cliffhanger that’s certain to pave the way for a “grittier” second season.
Hardcore purists, most likely, won’t like the new Anne with an E. It’s no different than Star Trek fans who aren’t into the new direction of the franchise or Batman geeks who weren’t excited about Bats’ propensity to murder people. But it’s a well-produced series, updated in just the right ways for modern viewers with a stellar cast. Nostalgia or not, Anne with an E is well worth a binge-watch.