JANE Austen said of her character Emma, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,” a concept now almost commonplace in the Fleabag age.
As the eponymous Emma, Anya Taylor-Joy charmingly leans into her unlikable aspects of snobbery, self satisfaction and her penchant for making matches among her acquaintances.
Having successfully married off her governess Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan) to cheerful neighbour Mr Weston (Ruper Graves), Emma turns her attention to exuberant school girl Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) and the ingratiating vicar Mr Elton (Josh O’Connor).
Family friend Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn) is the only person who can tell Emma that her judge of character may not be so accurate, something she only begins to see herself when her scheming has unforseen consequences.
Emma. is a chocolate box of beautiful scenery, gorgeous manor homes and sumptuous costumes in all shades of pastel.
Yet behind the façade we see characters being dressed by servants who constantly surround them and when not being ordered about are largely ignored.
The overt comedy works perfectly with a story more about character than plot, though initially the film’s tone feels confused between the quirky editing and score and the more naturalistic performances from the cast.
Small changes from the novel are all to the film’s benefit, mainly the heightening of the romance with one dance scene palpable with repressed sexual tension.
However Emma. is smart enough to allow Austen’s original story to remain front and centre, because why change genius.
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy