By: Amanda Guarragi
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” – Jane Austen
The first line in the novel is also presented at the beginning of the film adaptation of Emma, which was adapted to screen by Eleanor Catton and directed by Autumn de Wilde. Having this quote placed at the beginning of the film, set the tone for the film de Wilde was about to give her audience. The film felt like the embodiment of the character of Emma Woodhouse, like her entire soul was spread into the corners of the frame and we could feel her presence, even if she wasn’t on screen. De Wilde captured Ms. Woodhouse’s entire being and made sure we understood who she was.
Emma Woodhouse is one of my favourite characters in literature and Anya Taylor Joy owned the role. She was just as clever, beautiful, witty and had a knack in playing matchmaker for those around her. The one thing that de Wilde and Catton really did well was introducing the web of characters that Ms. Austen so expertly crafted when telling Emma’s story. There was such a flow between scenes and the tension between characters was very strong. This is probably one of the most perfect films of 2020, everything worked so well together, from the production design to the costuming and the score was perfectly composed to personify Emma herself.
Now I am not a hopeless romantic and I think that’s why I love Emma Woodhouse so much. She just wants to play matchmaker to make others happy and she always wants the best for those around her. It’s hard navigating your own romantic journey and sometimes you’ll find love when you least expect it but for Emma, it just never happened the way she wanted it to or who she wanted it with. Maybe expectations do put a damper on your romantic journey, or who you think you deserve to be with. At the same time those standards or values you carry should never be seen as an issue in hindering a relationship.
The film also made me reminisce about my own relationships with people and how I’ve played a role in each of their lives. It’s hard to process the role you play in someone’s life because you’re just focused on how you present yourself to them. Emma made me look at all those relationships a bit closer and asses the way I was treated, to eventually come to the conclusion, that I was used majority of the time for personal gain. I’ve been acting as a placeholder my entire life. Just once, I was blessed enough to actually feel like I meant something to someone, I didn’t feel like they were using me to make themselves feel better about who they were. It’s hard to come to these conclusions, and by watching Emma, it felt like an emotional support film of feeling understood and seen.
Emma had the perfect balance of tension between possible suitors and a whirlwind of situations that caused Emma to spin out of control. Emma’s chemistry with Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn) was felt from the first time they were on screen together. I’m someone who picks up the subtleties and I definitely appreciate a slow burn. Whenever they were bickering together or near each other, their hidden feelings for each other were felt and I loved how de Wilde chose to unravel their story. Flynn and Taylor Joy complimented each other so well and I think they may be one of my favourite onscreen pairings to date.
Emma is one of the most delightful films of 2020 and if you’re a fan of Victorian Era romance films and love Jane Austen then this will definitely be right up your alley. It’s beautifully shot and adapted so well that Autumn de Wilde will make you fall in love with Austen’s world all over again.