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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Anne with an E is a reimagining of the classic coming-of-age story Anne of Green Gables about an imaginative orphan who's adopted by elderly siblings. This show's focus is less the lighthearted missteps L. M. Montgomery's impulsive young Anne and more how her circumstances continue to cause her grief among those she meets in her new hometown. Concerns common to the timing of this 19th-century story -- hunger, verbal abuse, financial strain, and even the farming culture -- may seem foreign to some kids who watch, but the issues that affect Anne most directly are relevant today. She's bullied, ignored, and underestimated because of people's first impressions of her orphan status, and she faces prejudice at every turn. This and other emotional matters are central to this unique interpretation of the Green Gables story, so it's not necessarily a great fit for young kids who have seen other productions about Anne. That said, she remains an exceptional role model for her ability to overcome adversity and remain true to her identity, and in this story she also emerges as a champion for the then-foreign cause of gender equality.
What's the story?
ANNE WITH AN E opens with a fortuitous mistake that brings imaginative orphan Anne Shirley (AmyBeth McNulty) to Prince Edward Island and the care of middle-age siblings Matthew (R. H. Thomson) and Marilla Cuthbert (Geraldine James), who had intended to adopt a boy to help on the farm. Despite their inauspicious start and impulsive Anne's unfortunate penchant for trouble, this unlikely trio becomes a family, and Anne makes an indelible mark on the people in her new hometown. A spinner of tales and admirer of all things beautiful, Anne is nonetheless haunted by her tragic past and people who misjudged and mistreated her until her arrival at Green Gables, where she finds a longed-for kindred spirit in Diana Barry (Dalila Bela) and an unsuspecting adversary in the handsome Gilbert Blythe (Lucas Jade Zumann).
Is it any good?
Much beloved among literature heroines, Anne once again shines in this exceptional -- but notably darker than most -- interpretation of L. M. Montgomery's celebrated stories. Whether you arrive at this series already in love with impetuous Anne from previous encounters or you're new to her tale altogether matters very little in how quickly you're absorbed into this story. She's immediately engaging, and as she brings her life's misfortunes to the steps of Green Gables, you can't help but cheer her unwillingness to fall victim to despair from years of torment explored in flashbacks that weigh on her mind in the early parts of the story. Each small victory (making her first real friend, attending school, and even being taken at her word) feels so much bigger for what Anne has overcome just to arrive at a place we often take for granted today.
But Anne with an E isn't content to show Anne getting the best of her past alone; instead the story emphasizes how the very nature of her history challenges her even in the supposed warmth of a small town. Rather than getting a fresh start at Green Gables, Anne faces bullying and prejudice at every turn in school and among those who haven't suffered the injustice of being orphaned. She's taunted, dismissed, and misjudged, but still she perseveres, never stooping to the lows of which she's accused. This unique twist on this timeless story certainly redirects the lighthearted, foible-filled Anne tale of productions past, but it's no less spectacular as a result.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what accounts for Anne's indomitable spirit. Are people born with their personalities intact, or does a person's nature evolve through life experience? How does Anne's past teach her to treat others? Would you have a similar sense of perseverance if your past resembled Anne's? What are other character strengths that help Anne thrive?
Kids: Did anything about this story's setting in the 19th century surprise you? Were there any aspects to life then (no screens, no phones, a "simpler" time) that appeal to you? How do our modern conveniences enhance our lives? Are there ways in which they complicate them?
Which other book characters do you enjoy seeing on the screen? Are you ever disappointed in how writers and producers interpret literary characters and their stories? Which ones, in your opinion, deserve a jump to TV or movies?
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