‘Anne With An E’ Is Excellent Unless You’re Hung Up On Source Material

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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.

Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.


  1. Except for Billy Andrews picking a fight with Anne and being put in his place and likely finding out that the Blewett’s did get an orphan, the second season is apt to be lighter than the first. Most of the flashbacks were to show Anne’s apprehension based on past experience – why she did not want to be sent back the orphanage to face the bullies or gamble on the possibility that her next placement would be more like the Blewetts or the Hammonds. Anne slowly becomes more secure as she starts to realise that her placement is permanent and as she slowly wins people over in the school and in the community. Everyone liking her like magic right away is just not realistic, but something the naysayers seem to expect. I think that kids these days have moved away from expecting an instant happy ever after to wanting to know more about how one gets there.

    You know ahead of time that the Cuthberts don’t lose the farm – just like you know ahead of time on Gotham who doesn’t die/stay dead. I presume that even the “new arrivals” have a backstory – they seem like they’ve known each other a long time and have probably been doing this since they were kids. It is even possible that their relationship is the sort that Oswald Cobblepot would approve of – considering it is Canadian TV.

    There have been trial balloons put out shipping Jerry and Diana – which explains why Jerry was smoothing his hair when Diana and Ruby were returning the books and whether Jerry should be allowed by the writer to return to school. This would be a huge sell – not just because of the demographic differences between the two but because, in the books, Diana ends up with the (not in the CBC/Netflick series) Fred Wright.

    One of the light hearted moments was when Anne (the Shepherdess) threatened to kill Jerry (the cat) if he would not stop singing (drinking the milk-song translation) – and he sings louder. The period talk was also very funny.

    The series has been yet to introduce a disabled characters and, considered the tone, expect to be introduced to a one legged man up a ladder fixing the roof.

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