Has the world of Jane Austen ever looked lovelier? Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Austen’s beloved novel of youthful hubris Emma. is a feast for the eyes, but no empty spectacle either.
Music video producer and photographer De Wilde has a real knack for detail and colour, and her talent is put to good use here in this elegant tale of sophisticated socialites. Every frame is filled with something ravishing and the overall effect is quite breathtaking.
In Emma, De Wilde is ably served by her production designer, Kave Quinn. I have very rarely seen a movie that was as well composed as Emma with every shot resembling a portrait.
The film tells the by now familiar story of Emma Woodhouse. Handsome, clever and rich, Ms. Woodhouse spends her days matchmaking for those around her.
Emma suddenly has her work cut out, however, when the innocent and unworldly Harriet suddenly comes into her life. Resolving to find the girl a suitable match, Emma begins to plot to engineer a romantic liaison for her friend.
Austen’s social satire is well served here, with Anya Taylor Joy allowing Emma’s sneering social snobbery to come to the fore.
Indeed, the movie is studded with good performances. From Josh O’Connor’s bumbling Mr Elton to Johnny Flynn’s surprising muscular Mr Knightly. However, it is Taylor Joy in the eponymous role of Emma who really captures the eye.
Less sympathetic than other recent versions of the character, you feel that Joy’s version of the character is much closer to the character that Austen intended.
Nonetheless, Taylor is also skilled at eliciting the audience’s emotions when she eventually cracks and vainly realises how misguided she has been. The final scenes in the movie are all the more moving for Emma’s previous cold and calculating front.
Bill Nighy is perfectly charming too, if rather unused, as Henry Woodhouse, Emma’s eccentric but loveable father.
BBC1’s Miranda Hobbs puts in a scene stealing performance too as insufferable chatterbox Ms Bates. Hart is unsurprisingly good in the comic scenes, but the actress is also surprisingly effective later on, when required to reveal the sadness behind the character’s jovial exterior.
The movie’s music is a lovely surprise too. Whether it be the gorgeous operatic music that accompanies the early scenes, or the live performances by the characters – Emma’s performance of A Sweet Bird in Heaven is a sheer delight – this version of the story succeeds admirably on a musical level.
Autumn De Wilde’s Emma is that rarest of things. An exquisite looking movie that also offers genuine substance and quality.
The movie is graced with an array of outstanding performances, but it is the truly star making turn by Anya Taylor Joy in the title role which real sets the movie apart. A worthy addition to Austen’s ever growing movie cannon.
Emma. is now available to stream from Sky Store and GooglePlay. More information about the movie can be found here.
For information on other great movies to stream in London, please click here.