Emma.U¦ Blu-ray, DVD
Considering the status of ‘classic’ for the novel, it’s surprising that there haven’t been that many big screen adaptations of Jane Austen’s story, first published in 1815, one of those being 1995’s quirky modern spin on it Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone.
This version, making the feature length directorial debut for Autumn de Wilde, is a far more traditional approach to Austen’s tale of a young, well-respected woman and her ‘gift’ for bringing those around her together.
It’s a day that has left young Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) distraught; the day her governess Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan) moves out of the family home, to become Mrs Weston. Luckily for her, she can occupy her time in pairing the singletons she knows together.
Her latest challenge is Miss Taylor’s replacement, Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), who shouldn’t be that difficult as she’s completely in love with the idea of being in love. But after her meddling goes awry, including upsetting her gentleman friend Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn), she realises that her ability to find love for others isn’t as accurate as she believed it to be.
To take on a period piece for your first big film is a bold move, but that’s exactly what de Wilde has done, who up to this point, was better known for her music videos for the likes of Beck.
Luckily she’s brought together a good mix of talent, both young and more established, that gives the film a welcome balance.
At the heart of it is Taylor-Joy, who is given no easy feat considering that her character is possibly the least likeable of the piece. Her Emma is certainly aloof, even from those that she considers her peers, which gives her a coldness throughout. Perhaps she could have pushed her into being slightly more cruel, just to give her more of crisp edge, but instead she feels untouchable from the off.
This allows two other actors, Goth and Flynn, to be the real stars of the film. They give it the emotional heartbeat it so sorely craves, with wonderful subtle performances, the likes of which can make you an emotional wreck in a blink of an eye.
The rest of the supporting cast, including the ever reliable Bill Nighy, and Miranda Hart, help keep the narrative buoyant where necessary, which is just as well, as the film’s two hour running time has its fair share of dips.
It’s by no means an extraordinary debut, and to that extent, cannot be considered a definitive version, and therefore not a classic adaptation of a classic, but de Wilde’s film probably just does enough to keep fans of the source material mildly entertained.