‘Emma.’ Film Review

Style over substance plagues the latest adaption of Jane Austen’s classic novel

Emma. (2020) is another rendition of Jane Austen’s classic coming-of-age novel about noblewoman Emma Woodhouse’s attempts to meddle in her friend’s love affairs, always with the best intentions at heart of course. This version of the story comes from feature film newcomer Autumn de Wilde.

The film had some bright spots but its plot is definitely not one of them. The story dragged as it attempted to maintain the plot structure being presented to the viewer, that of each weather season being a chapter of the story. It lacked substance in character development and the plot seemed to never settle in throughout the 124 minute run-time.

Some performances do shine, however, with these namely being Anya Taylor-Joy’s (The Witch (2015), Split (2016)) titular role of Emma Woodhouse, Johnny Flynn’s (Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)) George Knightley, Josh O’Connor’s (The Crown 2019-2020) Mr. Elton, and Bill Nighy’s (Love Actually (2003), About Time (2013)) Mr. Woodhouse. Each aforementioned performance helped raise the overall quality of the film.

What the film lacked in substance, it made up for wonderfully in style. Costume design was exquisite in this film. It is no secret that period pieces always output excellent costume design, but the costumes of this film over-did itself nonetheless. It brilliantly personified each character. An example was the always-meticulous outfits worn by Emma, resembling her character to perfection. The use of colors and imagery (namely symmetry) also shined in this film, drawing many similarities often synonymous with films made by Wes Anderson. Cinematography also tied in exceptionally well to this as each scene is wonderfully framed and presented to the viewer.

Emma. (2020) is a beautifully crafted film full of artistic merit that shines in its fundamental film-making practices. However, its plot negatively affects the overall quality of the completed film, making it hard to enjoy throughout a viewing. This film acts as a prime example of the vital importance in balancing substance and style to ensure a film’s ultimate success.

Rating – 7/10

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