In Emma, filmmaker and photographer Autumn De Wilde puts together a beautiful portrait of womanhood and directs rising-star Anya Taylor-Joy in witty Jane Austen comedy.
Emma Woodhouse’s back on the screen. After Douglas McGrath’s 1996 cinematic version of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, one of the most cherished country-house comedies of all (Western) times is here again to make us feel high and low, elated and depressed, and, which is of paramount importance, to give us a lesson in not-so-old English manners and relieve us of our post-Downton Abbey sentimental spasms. Will brilliant, fast-tongued Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) find happiness as she plays Cupid around her neighbourhood and attends Marie-Antoinette-worth tea parties? I must confess that I didn’t go to watch Emma to answer that pressing question.
The more than trivial reason why I wanted to watch photographer Autumn De Wilde’s Emma was its Japanese-screen-style advertising on double-decker buses – which, potentially, means double advertising possibility with each ride. But the point is, when I got eyed around by cruelly sweet Anya Taylor-Joy’s eyes, I wasn’t even using public transportation: I was resolutely walking down the road, probably late, to whatever meeting I was desperately trying to miss. And they were there. Persistently. So I gave in at last. That’s why I’m here now, talking about what might be one of the fanciest movies on the 2020 release list – at least for the name of its director.
And you’d better google that name before you proudly stride into your living rooms with armfuls of (rigorously) homemade nibbles if you want to learn a couple of fast notions about the mind behind Emma’s camera. To begin with, Autumn is, at least biologically, a woman – it was not self-evident. Secondly, the Images results of your search will show you a quite stylish human being – who, related or not, would have been a tough style match for the most famous bearer of the pun-word Wilde in his surname – Ireland’s beloved lost son (in the sense that mostly everyone thinks he was an Englishman) Oscar. Autumn has a taste for blazers, shirts and (bow)ties. Sometimes you’ll spot her leaning on a stick (I honestly don’t know if she does that on ground of any medical reason or not). But, most of all: she’s quite the post-Romantic artist, and her commercial works bathe in unmerciful chromatic precision. Oscar would have nodded in approval.
Therefore, unsurprisingly, the first thing that strikes us about Emma is the perfectly calibrated saturation of every shot. From garments to food, from hair to flowers, each and every element has the tactile quality of lucid dreams. Emma’s world glitters with outspoken perfection, and so does Emma’s cinematography, which – if anything – would suffice to make us fall in love with De Wilde’s adaption of Austen’s novel. On top of that, Taylor-Joy’s acting once again proves her a rising star, and one all directors seem to be very fond of. The rest of the cast play a lovely counterpoint to Taylor-Joy’s undisputed leadership and, truth be told, the flick turns out to cater for light-hearted and genuinely funny relief from a weary day. The third act may have been handled slightly more gracefully – as is the case with Austen’s novels, you can generally feel when the turning point’s coming, but Emma’s final twist was even a little too obvious and rushed.
So, the only question that has been keeping me awake at night is: did I like Emma? Did it live up to the golden expectations I got from hours and hours of trudging through city streets? It fully did. Just as it was supposed to happen, Taylor-Joy’s eyes lost interest in me quite easily. They slid away into the evening traffic and never asked me for a second date. As every rejected lover should do I turned the corner and forgot them immediately. I expected to like and not like Emma. I expected to have mixed feelings about my reaction to it. But that’s water under the bridge. I don’t really care about over-witty conversation anymore. Yes, I liked Emma, and, what’s more, I liked its director. And yes, it left me indifferent and, at the same time, eager to recommend the film to all those who have been asking me for viewing recommendations.
Emma is now available to watch on Digital.