Since its 1908 publication, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables has sold 50 million copies and has been translated into 36 languages. But the best translation by far is this one for the screen, which is picture perfect right down to its red plaited pigtails.
For those who didn’t read this classic novel as a child, let us explain the premise: Anne (with an E) is a 13-year-old orphan, who is accidentally sent to a middle-aged brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla, who live in a sleepy farming village called Green Gables, and had asked for a boy to help them out on their farm. What they didn’t ask for, is an Anne – she’s brilliantly bright, imaginative and oft precocious, she talks so much and so fast that she almost forgets to stop for breath. But quiet and solemn Matthew soon softens, enjoying Anne’s rambling whilst austere Marilla insists Anne go back, for she can’t possibly carry out farm tasks. In 2021 we hardly need to tell you, she absolutely can. From there, we watch her settling in to farm life, meeting the locals and landing herself in all the trouble a 13-year-old ought to land themselves in.
And with this adaptation – unlike the 1980s miniseries – we don’t shy away from the darker and grittier moments, but that’s no surprise when Breaking Bad writer Moira Walley-Beckett is in charge of the script. Much of these moments come from the aging Matthew and Marilla and their lack of emotional intelligence. But the story never goes too far into the bleak, and remains a cheerful and cosy story of childhood, with Anne played perfectly by the hugely talented Amybeth McNulty.
This series has some seriously devoted fans, and we mean devoted, too. When Netflix tried to axe the show, they protested, even going so far as to add a billboard illustration of Anne in Times Square. And it worked – the show has returned for another two seasons.
And thank goodness, because The Guardian’s Chitra Ramaswamy says this “lush, sad and perfect” story is the “Anne of Green Gables for our times.” And she should know, as she’s a self-professed mega-fan. Neil Genzlinger of The New York Times says this is a “rewarding return to Green Gables,” and provides relief from the “vacuous drivel emitted by most teenage characters on Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel.” He does, however, warn “Watch this series with young children and you’d best be prepared to annotate it on the fly.”
First shown May 2017. You can watch the trailer here: