About fifteen minutes into ’Emma.’ I wasn’t sure as to what was happening, who these characters were or why I was subjecting myself to this pompous proper mess of a film that seemed more concerned with showing us intricately colorful production design than actually telling a story. However, being one to never quit on a film no matter how bad, I decided to push through and towards the end I was cheering on as I watched these characters I once didn’t care for overcome their issues triumphantly.
Image source: The Divide
Emma is an adaptation of Jean Austen’s novel of the same name. It follows Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor Joy), a wealthy young lady who relishes in her adventures in matchmaking. After her governess, Miss Taylor, gets married (through Emma’s matchmaking skills of course), Emma transfers her attention to Harriet (Mia Goth), a younger girl whom she assumes is the unclaimed child of a gentleman.
The film works as a low stakes drama only indulging in brief glimpses of consequence to the characters’ actions. Our titular character is selfish and manipulative but she means no harm. She has a firm belief that she understands what’s best for everyone and carries no false pretense about it. Her friend Harriet is shy, bright eyed and naïve. She worships the ground that Emma walks on and hangs on to her every word. Then there’s Knightley (Johnny Flynn), the film’s voice of reason and the only character who seems to be able to oppose Emma, carrying no malice of course.
Still from Emma.
All these characters are just wholesome; they’re well intentioned and take their strides in bliss. That is, aside from one priest, ironic I know. The film is basically an opportunity for the audience to watch rich white people frolic about and ponder on issues of marriage and matchmaking, issues that seem incredibly trivial given the situation the world is currently in and from a distance it may seem like such an uninviting premise but there’s oddly a great sense of comfort to be found in this.
The wholesomeness of the characters makes up for their vanity and self-indulgence. There’s an earnest quality given to them and most of all to the main character. This added to the brilliant performances and beautifully composed shots made for an incredibly engrossing and fulfilling experience. I can’t recommend this enough.