A Gritty but Triumphant Return to Avonlea:
A review of the Netflix Original Anne with an “E”
I remember reading Anne of Green Gables when I was younger. I would sprawl across the couch and slowly flip through the delicate pages, savoring the words like candy. This is why when I noticed Netflix’s 2017 adaptation, entitled Anne with an “E,” I had to watch! Set in Avonlea, a fictional town on Prince Edward Island, Anne with an “E” tells the heartwarming story of a 13-year-old orphan. After bouncing from orphanages and foster homes, Anne is sent to elderly siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert to assist on their farm. Here, throughout seven 45-minute episodes, Anne navigates the road of adolescence and learns what it feels like to belong to a family and a place.
The coastal and rural setting is gorgeous, but the show’s true beauty lies with the emotion and passion of the actors. One especially moving scene occurred mid-first episode when Marilla (Geraldine James) relays to Matthew (R.H. Thomson) that skinny and loquacious Anne would be no help and should be returned to the orphanage. Matthew’s face, partially lit by candlelight, strains as he looks down at his hands. After a few seconds of silence he responds, “Well, we might be of some good to her.” These words were so passionately put that, paired with his emotive expressions, I found myself fighting back tears.
Additionally, Anne with an “E” explores valuable themes, like acceptance, that are as meaningful today as they were in the late 19th century. At first, Anne, like many of us, doesn’t fit in at school; she’s ridiculed and excluded because she’s an orphan with raggedy clothing and conspicuous red hair. Then she meets and befriends Diana, a girl her age who consistently makes an effort to include her. Whether it’s sitting next to her in class or making room for her at the lunch table, Diana’s acceptance helps Anne hold her head high.
Still, despite the uplifting messages, some critics argue that Anne with an “E” is too negative for the usually youner Anne of Green Gables fans. Anne often has violent flashbacks about being beaten by a foster parent and tormented by other kids at the orphanage before living with the Cuthberts. While it’s true the novel doesn’t depict these barbaric acts, the television version uses them to develop Anne into a complex, compelling, and resilient character. Anne may be haunted by her past, but she perseveres and maintains a vivacious, imaginative personality—one I grew to side with during the series.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Anne with an “E.” Sure it’s gritty, but the talented cast, realistic writing, and multifaceted characters prove that it is, no doubt, a worthwhile show to watch.