I’ve been obsessed with Anne of Green Gables since I was a kid, and I’m always a bit nervous when new adaptations appear. I never want to see anything that ruins my Anne, so as I sat down to watch the PBS Holiday special, I crossed my fingers, and did my best to keep an open mind.
I still remember the sense of joy and relief that came over me the first time I watched the 1985 mini-series version of Anne of Green Gables.
As an odd, overly enthusiastic, overly imaginative little girl, I was sure I had found a kindred spirit. I wasn’t alone in the world. There was someone who felt and thought the things that I did. There was someone who acted like I did. It made no difference to me that that someone was a fictional character.
I read the books and I watched the mini-series so much, my mom actually hid the VHS tapes for a few weeks because she feared they were causing me to have an identity crisis. When I was a teenager, I got to play Anne in our high school’s drama production of Anne of Green Gables.
When life gets tough, I’ll throw on some Anne to reunite with my childhood friend. So when news came out that in the near future there would be not just one, but two Anne of Green Gables adaptations, I’ll admit I was apprehensive.
I like both film versions of Sabrina. I own two film versions of The Secret Garden. I’m not a purest who thinks that one version of a film must be the be all and end all. For Anne, I was worried about my friend. How would she be portrayed? Would I still like her at the end? I feared that it would be like seeing a childhood friend after many years and realizing that they are now a completely different, less likable, person.
The Passage of Time
This made for TV version of the overly imaginative, quirky, orphan girl, mistakenly dropped off to a brother and sister who had requested a boy, takes place across the span of a year. The seasons are used to demonstrate the passage of time.
I think one of the things I’ve always loved about the Anne series is the depiction of Prince Edward Island. Somehow the series is able to make the real life island seem just as magical as a fictional world like Narnia. This 2016 PBS version was able, through its beautiful cinematography, to showcase the loveliness of P.E.I.
The 2016 movie was comprised of some of the most popular vignettes from the Anne of Green Gables novel. Given only an hour and a half this was just a snippet of Anne’s story. At times, the dialogue was so precise to the original material, I was able to say the lines along with Anne.
The filmmakers took some of the familiar scenes and did something a little different with them. The “I hate you” scene was more subtle, and I liked that you didn’t hear Anne’s apology to Rachel, but saw it at a distance from Marilla’s perspective. I also liked how we got to spend more time during the tea party scene watching the girls’ theatrics, pretending to have a proper tea party, and less time on Diana being drunk. It was my favorite part of the movie.
I was absolutely delighted by actress Ella Ballentine’s portrayal of Anne Shirley. She was a worthy Anne.
There were times where my heart broke for her when she thought she would have to leave Green Gables, even though I know in the end Anne stays.
For most of the supporting characters it was too difficult to form an opinion. Given the hour and a half running time, characters like Gilbert Blythe were given very little screen time. Aside from Diana, Matthew and Marilla are the only characters we really get to know.
The characters of Matthew and Marilla were my only gripe about this version. Marilla should start out stern, unimaginative, and sarcastic, basically the complete opposite of Anne. The Marilla in this 2016 version was far too kind and warm from the start. She seemed more perplexed by Anne than exasperated, but it’s Marilla’s constant exasperation and deadpan comments that add much of the humor to the story. Also without Marilla being hard as nails at the beginning, there isn’t much of a character arc for her. It’s Anne’s presence that gets Marilla to soften and show some emotion.
Matthew, played by actor Martin Sheen, was a bit too chatty and outgoing.
A lot of the story’s humor that comes from Matthew being quiet, shy, and introverted was lost. Also, I didn’t understand why they put focus on Matthew’s heart condition. I started to worry that they were planning on killing him off prematurely at the end of the movie, but they didn’t, so the two scenes focusing on his heart issue seemed unnecessary.
I thought the 2016 PBS Anne of Green Gables movie showed stunning scenery, had some great scenes, and succeeded in delivering all of the heartwarming feels you would expect from the story. Actress Ella Ballentine portrayed Anne Shirley with the perfect amount of imagination, charm, and quirkiness. I hope that perhaps there was a little girl out there watching this version who was feeling like she was odd and would never fit in anywhere, and perhaps that girl found a kindred spirit.
The next adaptation of the Anne story will be coming out sometime in 2017 on the CBC for Canadians and on Netflix for everyone else.
I’m more worried about this version as when reading an article about it, creators stated that they were hoping to make things more “edgy.” One of the main reasons I love Anne of Green Gables so much is its lack of edgy. In a world of craziness, sometimes you just want to watch something innocent and fun, but like this 2016 PBS version, I’m willing to keep an open mind.