So here is a review by a Canadian author I really like (Sarah Bessey):
I finally had a chance to watch the first episode of the new CBC Anne The Series last night. I don't mind admitting that I was suspicious of the adaption and inclined to dislike it. My expectations were somewhere around that third Anne movie which shall not be named (I mean, they put Anne and Gilbert into the First World War and WE ALL KNOW THAT IS RILLA'S TIMELINE).
So yes, I fully expected to hate it and show up here to lament with you, my friends.
And yet....I liked it.
No, it's not the 1985 movie adaptation of the original book which is still the gold standard. That spot in our hearts is sacred, obviously. But.... I really liked it. And the more I think about it, the more I like it.
This version is fresh and updated, it's bold and reinvented. You have to admit that it takes some magic to make this familiar story and well known dialogue feel brand new and exciting - after all, as fans we have whole passages memorized! - and yet somehow they manage to do it.
It's beautifully shot, of course, and several scenes are an absolute work of art. That opening credit with the song "Ahead by a Century" by the Tragically Hip was legit inspired.
The young girl who plays Anne (Amybeth McNulty) is a brilliant choice in particular and probably is the highlight of the whole episode to me. She's physically more like how Anne is described in the books, that's for sure - almost other-worldly, alien in her earnestness and her scrawniness and her big eyes that are too much for every adult to look into, always prompting comments on her appearance by the look of her. She captures the subtext of Anne and truly communicates how weird she was, how out of step, how damaged, why she was off-putting to the grown-ups around her. Anne made people uncomfortable because she was a lonely, desperate, longing, hungry - likely abused - child who is suffering.
Rather than making her precocious and endearing, they made Anne real: why does she imagine so much? why does she talk like she's filling dangerous silence? why is she so desperate for a bosom friend? People in Avonlea thought she was weird, she didn't fit with how they were and this is why. A lot of Montgomery's audience would have been able to fill in the context for why Anne was the way she was (and why - as she becomes loved and attached some of those quirks were integrated in a more healthy way) but we aren't able to fully understand the time period without this. There are definitely some hard scenes to watch that are technically "out of canon" but they are strongly implied by the books. Now we understand why Anne is the way she is. We understand the raw desperation behind her eyes, her hunger for love.
The Anne we all grow to love is in there - we can see her, just as Matthew and Marilla can see something in her that Rachel Lynde and everyone else can't see - but it is going to take love and security to make her whole.
This version of Anne is closer to the books, in my opinion, at least here in the beginning. We'll see if they can keep pace with her for the growing-up experience. I can't tell you how nice it is to see Anne and Diana as the children they actually are, too, instead of as sixteen-year-olds-playing-twelve-year-olds. They are children and we see that more clearly. We see the difference between their families, we see how harshly people judged orphans and considered them outsiders, we see the difference between how Anne grew up and how Diana grew up. We even see how quickly Anne attaches to Diana as a symptom of who she is - a kid hungry for love and too quick to jump to talk of soulmates because she's desperate for connection. We see that it wasn't even necessarily Diana she loved - it was the idea of a FRIEND she loved and Diana just happened to be willing.
Other highlights: Matthew, as always, is the heart of the show. I have always loved R.H. Thomson as an actor (shout out to the other "Road to Avonlea" watchers who know him as Jasper Dale) but he can communicate more in a look than most actors in a whole monologue. I liked the new Marilla and the new Diana as well as the new Rachel Lynde. I've always felt Rachel has a heart of gold though and this Rachel came across a bit too harsh without that redeeming quality coming through - she is equally loving and aggravating, and here she was more harsh and aggravating.
There were definitely a few points I didn't love in the moment but after the show ended and I thought it over, everything they changed made sense and enriched the story. So I'm open to whoever Jerry Baynard's presence even if I'm giving it some side-eye still.
I'm not too sure about the next episode since they have departed from the book pretty heavily by the looks of the previews obviously but I'll reserve any suspicion - after all, I'm eating humble pie here already so I need to stay open to being pleasantly surprised again.
What about you? What did you like? dislike? love? hate?
_________________When sleeping women wake, mountains move. ~ Chinese proverb