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Non-Review Review: Emma.

Emma. is gorgeous to look at.

Autumn de Wilde’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel is immensely stylised in a way that suits the material. Austen’s Emma has always been a story about characters who exist ensconced in a world without any material wants or desires, without any existential threats or simmering tensions. The story’s stakes derive within the context of the comforts and luxuries in which Emma Woodhouse has lived her life. When the film opens, Emma’s biggest concern is the departure of her beloved governess, who is simply moving a kilometre and a half down the road and will remain part of her social circle.

Indeed, de Wilde even opens with an intertitle quoting the novel’s opening setnence, “Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.” The film is built around this idea, creating a stylish cocoon for Emma, a world that looks like it might have been entirely constructed from those brightly coloured confections that its characters serve at afternoon tea.

The result is a beautiful and charming film that captures a lot of the low-stakes charm of the source material, offering a richly designed world in which the novel’s romantic comedy trappings might unfold.

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