Without watching Netflix’s May 12-launching Anne With An E, some might say it is near sacrilege to have a new version of the classic Anne Of Green Gables tale. They could say that on Canada’s 150th anniversary, no small-screen version of L.M. Montgomery’s much-adapted 1908 novel could hope reach the heights of the Megan Follows-starring 1985 miniseries and one of the Great White North’s most famous works of literature.
Well, as good as that Kevin Sullivan-directed effort was, let’s just say the beloved story of the plucky redheaded Prince Edward Island orphan, her bountiful imagination and unconquerable spirit has found new life and darker depths in the latest seven-episode incarnation. Having already been broadcast in Canada on the CBC this year and now coming to Netflix everywhere else in the world, Anne With An E is, as I say in my video review above, a story for the ages that has become one for our times.
A lot of the credit to this distinctly more realistic Anne has to go to its young lead, Amybeth McNulty, and Emmy-winning scribe Moira Walley-Beckett. As the often abused, rejected and persevering young teen of more than a century ago, now 15-year-old McNulty delivers a strong performance. I know it is cliché to say, but the Canadian actor breaks your heart and lifts your spirits at the same time. With the fears this force of nature of a child has to endure seeking a bond and a family with her reticent adopted parents (the stern middle-age Cuthbert siblings), McNulty gives us the pain often played down in previous adaptations as well as that endless famous optimism.
Unlike the stumbles of her 2015 Starz series Flesh And Bone, ex-Breaking Bad producer and writer Walley-Beckett has focused her considerable talents in Anne. The result is insightfully more Charles Dickens’ Bleak House in many ways than Walter White, while still tapping into the harsh truths of a hard world that are clearly evident in Montgomery’s book.
Check out more of what I think in my video review above. A celebration of one of Canada’s greatest cultural exports, this series is binge-worthy with a capital Y, a capital E and a capital S.