This Canadian series calls itself Anne with an E, although it’s listed on IMDB simply as Anne. Since the stunningly gorgeous title sequence for every episode calls it Anne with an E, that’s the one I’m going with here.
There are so many things I enthusiastically loved about this series, I hardly know where to begin. The series is loosely based on Anne of Green Gables, a 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. If you loved the novel and earlier films made from it, this version may not appeal to you. Critics have labeled it everything from too bleak to rewarding. I found it charming and absolutely gorgeous.
Anne with an E was written by Moira Walley-Beckett and Antonio Ranieri with an outstanding array of directors including Niki Caro, Sandra Goldbacher, Patricia Rozema, Helen Shaver, and Amanda Tapping.
Amybeth McNulty stars as Anne Shirley Cuthbert. The elder brother and sister who take her in at Green Gables on Prince Edward Island are played by Geraldine James as Marilla and R.H. Thomson as Matthew. These three are the center of the story of the orphan Anne and her new family. All three of them, but especially then 14 year-old Amybeth McNulty turn in excellent performances.
Anne was prone to deliver long monologues of complex sentence structure and over-dramatized theatrics. Amybeth McNulty made it look easy. Amybeth McNulty was perfectly cast as Anne. Red hair, freckles, a mouth full of crooked teeth, dimples, all long arms and legs and knees and elbows. A perfect specimen of a 14 year-old girl.
Anne hated her red hair and thought of herself as ugly. However, you can see she’s going to grow into someone stunning.
When Matthew arrived home at Green Gables with Anne instead of the boy they’d wanted to help with the farm work, his sister Marilla was insistent she couldn’t stay. Many of the first episodes in the series dealt with whether or not Anne would be accepted by the family or sent back to the orphanage.
Luckily for Anne, Matthew fell in love with her and her interesting stories on the long ride home from the train station that first day they were together. She gave him the scope of her imagination in its full glory almost as soon as they met.
Marilla was slower to warm up to Anne. Anne is irresistible, a force of joy and enthusiastic emotions. Marilla softens to her eventually, but not without some bad decisions first.
Anne immediately befriended a neighbor girl, Diana (Dalila Bela). Diana became her ally in the adventures ahead of her as she attempted to fit in to a society she didn’t understand. Diana was frequently banished from Anne’s company by her mother, but life always brought them back together. Although, there was that one time Anne accidentally got Diana drunk.
The Cuthberts hired a local boy named Jerry (Aymeric Jett Montaz) to do the work they intended their orphan to do. He came from a large family and worked from necessity. He wasn’t able to attend school because of that. He liked Anne quite a lot. Any boy with good sense would.
Gilbert (Lucas Jade Zumann) and Anne met at school. He was as smart as Anne, very smart indeed. They were academic rivals. He also liked Anne quite a lot. Any boy with good sense would. Gilbert defended Anne from bullies and gossips.
Anne could read. She had an almost photographic memory for what she read. But she hadn’t been to school for any periods of time and didn’t know math and other subjects. She caught on fast, however. And she had important skills from her time in the orphanage and working for a family with 3 sets of twins. She knew how to save a child with croup. She knew how to work hard. She knew what to do in case of a fire. She knew how to strike a good bargain. And she knew how to spin a tale. She saved the day more than once for the people around her.
I appreciated Anne’s feminist outlook on life. A girl could do anything a boy could, in her opinion. She could decide what she wanted to do with her life and marriage was an option, not a requirement.
When she met Diana’s Aunt Josephine (Deborah Grover), Anne completely understood her grief over the loss of her lifelong female companion. Anne didn’t get what companion meant in those days, but she understood loving a girl. After all, she loved Diana. Her lack of understanding of anything sexual was hilarious, especially when she explained her theories about the Mrs “petting a mouse in the Mister’s pants” to her new school friends.
Nor did she have any clue about menstruation. She thought she was dying before Marilla stepped in with the news that this was going to happen every month for years!
The series was filmed mostly on beautiful Prince Edward Island. The places, the colors, the views were seemingly embued with magic from Anne’s abundant imagination. Every scene, every shot, was a work of art.
The season ended on a scary cliffhanger, which gives me hope that there may be more in store for Anne with an E. Amybeth McNulty is 16 already. I’d love to see a more grown up Anne in action. The original book did go beyond this point.
And I want to know what happens to the Cuthberts after they foolishly let the wolf in the door.