‘Emma.’ is a visually breathtaking adaptation

Jane Austen’s classic novel, “Emma.” gets another readaptation in Director Autumn De Wilde’s visually beautiful version of a classic story of rich, young matchmaker Emma Woodhouse.

As far as the story goes, “Emma.” isn’t something under the radar in pop culture. There have been countless adaptations throughout the decades, most famously, the iconic “Clueless” (1995). However as difficult as it is to make a popular adaptation stand out, the 2020 remake is most identifiable by the beautiful camera work.

Each scene is consistently shot with director De Wilde’s aesthetic in mind. Most notably is the use of color throughout the film. Both bright colored hues and soft pastels breathe a fun, whimsical environment that “Emma.” is rooted in. This seems to add to every lush field, rose garden or amazing architecture that the film is so surrounded by, and makes these non-living spaces feel like active characters in the film. In other words, the color scheme is both lively and dull when appropriate.

Another visually appealing feature about the film is the present symmetry. My favorite use of symmetry is when it’s used in intimate scenes with two characters. For example, Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn) discussing the new romantic implications of their relationship. Similar shots like this one that show two people looking at each other in perfect symmetry create an intensity in emotion. The symmetry also adds to the beautiful set design and locations, making the visual factors of the film the ones that clearly stand out the most.

I’d also say that the film has a lot of heart and bite to it. Taylor-Joy is very fun to watch on-screen and delivers a wit and sharpness to her character as well as an empathy that shows the complexities of the original Jane Austen character. 

Other performances, such as Mia Goth as Harriet Smith, are also fun and all play off each other pretty well. One style of humor that hasn’t been lost through other adaptations is the polite nature of the delivery of the dialogue, which is something, again, I think does the original source material in an appropriate way that still translates well to audiences of all ages.

Where “Emma.” stands out visually, the film doesn’t add much more originality to the story. While the heart of the source material was captured, it didn’t feel this was throughout the whole movie and felt a tad dull. At times, it also felt like the characters blended in with each other or didn’t have very strong relationships with the other characters, romantically speaking. This happened more with less important characters rather than Taylor-Joy and Flynn’s relationship.

While “Emma.” is structurally similar to other adaptations, this version should go down as one of the most aesthetically appealing of the collection, and as far as 2020, one of the prettiest films of the year.

Rating: 3.5/5 

Danielle Kessler can be reached at [email protected] or @reserv0irpups on Twitter.