Anne with an E Series Premiere Plot Summary:
Anne (Amybeth McNulty) arrives at Green Gables hoping to find a new family. However, she has trouble fitting into her new environment.
Anne of Green Gables is a very familiar story to me. I read the books as a little kid and even dressed as Anne in first grade for “come as your favorite book character day.” My mom showed my sister and me the original PBS series and we would play make believe as Anne and Gilbert and Diana for hours. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to review Netflix’s reimagining of the timeless tale.
Anne with an E is enjoyable but disappointing. “Your Will Shall Decide Your Destiny” is a very long hour and a half. We meet the never silent Anne, the mostly silent Matthew Cuthbert (R.H. Thomson), his sister Marilla (Geraldine James), plus a great number of the people that inhabit Prince Edward Island and will soon come to be major players in Anne’s life.
This new retelling is new only in literal age. The actors are different and the cameras are clearer, but the story is almost exactly the same as the PBS miniseries before it and the novel both were based on. Anne of Green Gables is a classic and to mess with it would have been sacrilege. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
This, however, leads me to wonder why exactly they rebooted the show. The original was perfectly glorious. Admittedly, I would have been vexed if they did put a new, unique spin to the story. I don’t really have a solution for this rock and a hard place situation. But I’m a critic, so I’ll just point out my problems and walk away.
Amybeth McNulty is ingratiating. She doesn’t have the skill to embody to the essence of Anne Shirley. Anne is a complex character. She wants so badly to fit in, to be loved, to do what’s right. Yet, she gives in to every emotion, every daydream and every performance. For the entire first episode, McNulty makes it clear she is acting. It would have only been more obvious if she looked directly into the camera before each scene and said, “This is me, Amybeth, acting as Anne.” McNulty appears trained for the stage and this doesn’t translate to the televised series.
With all this said, I still enjoyed watching this first episode. Anne of Green Gables is part of my personal history and Anne with an E, for all its faults, still captured the basics of the original story.
As with any show or film based off of a novel, I suggest you read that first. Books are a wonderful thing and it will connect you more to our heroine. Then I would watch the PBS miniseries because it was truly excellent, though I will admit I have a major soft spot for PBS and about 10 years since my last viewing. Lastly, I would give the Netflix version a try. Especially if you have younger kids and you can’t cajole them into the first two things.