I recently went to see the new film adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Emma. Before continuing with my review of the film I must admit I’ve never read the original novel or seen another adaptation of it (with the obvious exception of Clueless) and so this was truly my first experience of the story. So, here are my thoughts on the most recent adaptation of this classic.
I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of a period drama so I wasn’t what I would think of this film going in, however I found the tone of it thoroughly enjoyable. The dry humour and eclectic cast was an unexpected joy and the costumes and set were stunning, particularly during the shots that focused very closely on Emma and Mr Knightley being dressed. Two scenes that were interesting because I feel that they highlighted that the film was directed by a woman as there was a distinct absence of the male gaze (something which is notable throughout the film).
The film as a whole follows Emma, a young and beautiful woman of high status in Georgian-era England. Emma enjoys meddling in the lives of her friends and family in the name of matchmaking and the films follows her burgeoning friendship with Harriet, a young woman of unknown parentage, and subsequent matchmaking attempts.
The depiction of Emma’s friendship with Harriet was unfortunately one of my least favourite aspects of the film as I felt that it failed to fully portray it a genuine and meaningful relationship. Instead there were many instances in which Emma came across of cold and only interested in manipulating Harriet for her own benefit. This then takes away some of the significance of the climactic scene between Emma and Harriet in which Emma tries to make amends.
However, an aspect of the film that I did enjoy was that the focus of the plot was the platonic relationship between Emma and Harriet, rather than any sort of romantic relationship. Emma and Mr Knightley’s relationship is very much a secondary plot line, which was something I did not expect from a period drama, particularly since their relationship is entirely one of romance with no ulterior motive for them being together. As Emma makes, she has everything she needs, why would she marry for a household when she already runs her father’s?
Overall, I would consider this film enjoyable but unimpressive, there were plenty of fun moments and it was very well made, but it did not live up to some of the other film adaptations that have come out recently.