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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Anne of Green Gables is another take on L.M. Montgomery's classic book about the iconic red-headed orphan. Like the beloved 1985 movie, the story centers on a spunky, imaginative girl who finds an unlikely home with two middle-aged siblings in a small Canadian town. The content is mostly kid-friendly, though Anne's friend does accidentally get drunk, and a number of flashbacks into Anne's past hint at violence, physical punishment (Anne's hands are slapped with a ruler, for instance), and other unpleasant living conditions. Ultimately, though, it's Anne's spirit and perseverance, and the story's superb messages about family, friendship, and love, that stay with viewers long after the movie's end.
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What's the story?
In ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, when middle-aged siblings Marilla (Sara Botsford) and Matthew Cuthbert (Martin Sheen) send away for an orphan boy to help them around their farm on Prince Edward Island, fortune steps in and delivers them a girl instead. But Anne Shirley (Ella Ballentine) is not just any girl; she's fanciful, imaginative, and outspoken, all of which feels out of place at Green Gables and Avonlea. As time passes, though, Anne endears herself to kindhearted Matthew and rigid Marilla and begins to find her niche in the broader community, with the help of her new best friend, Diana (Julia Lalonde). Suddenly it's as though she's been there forever, and finally having a place to call home allows Anne to blossom in new ways.
Is it any good?
Sweeping scenery, whimsical music, and a timeless story of family and friendship make this interpretation of L.M. Montgomery's classic a feel-good movie for all ages. Precocious Anne instantly wins over viewers with her chin-up attitude in the face of more adversity than most can imagine today, from being orphaned at an early age to bouncing around as an unwanted addition to one family after another and finally landing in a dreary group home. (Not to mention the lifelong sorrow of her red hair, of course.) It's no wonder Green Gables is a dream come true for her, and as she comes to find her place in it -- and in the hearts of Marilla and Matthew -- it's impossible not to root for a bright future for Anne with an "e."
This Anne of Green Gables reboot does a wonderful job introducing a new generation of viewers to this classic story set in a very different childhood from those that exist today, and it's enticing from the first few scenes. That said, fans of the acclaimed 1985 Kevin Sullivan production will find that this version toys with some aspects of the story that come as a bit of a disappointment. For one, Gilbert Blythe (Drew Haytaoglu) plays only a marginal role in this adaptation, thus downplaying Anne's grudge against him that so defines her coming-of-age story. Marilla and Matthew are noticeably reinterpreted as well, with Marilla being far less severe and Matthew significantly more extroverted here, and so Anne's winning them over is much less momentous. These and other adjustments don't interfere with this wonderful story itself, but they will be noticed by longtime fans of the version by which all others are judged, even three decades later.
Talk to your kids about ...
What accounts for Anne's ability to rise above her surroundings and see the best in people in Anne of Green Gables? How does her perseverance pay off? Is it difficult to be patient for a reward? What other character strengths and life skills are important to you?
Families can talk about the differences between Anne's childhood experience and theirs. How have basic responsibilities and needs changed since Anne's time? What parts of Anne's life seem most foreign to you? On the other hand, are there some that ring true to your experience?
Is Anne a good role model? What qualities are most admirable in her? How does she react when she makes a mistake?
- Premiere date: November 24, 2016
- Cast: Martin Sheen, Ella Ballentine, Sara Botsford
- Network: PBS
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- TV rating: TV-G
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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