cast: Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, Patricia Hamilton, Schuyler Grant, Jonathan Crombie
Our rating: 5 out of 5
reviewed by: Charity Bishop
When asked, Producer Kevin Sullivan could not answer as to why his Canadian production of Anne of Green Gables has become a timeless classic, a film shown again and again to progressing generations of girls. It is a story that can be enjoyed as a whole upon a winter's night, one that even the men in our lives can sit down and watch for the spirited antics of the lovable redhead and her often obvious loathing for the school boy in her life. Much went into the production, from the careful planning and much-shot sequences to the delicate Victorian touches that so grace the period with an era of authenticity.
Young Anne Shirley is a freckle-faced, temperamental redhead with a passion for reading. An orphan from birth, she has been "adopted" by Mrs. Hammond and is used as little more than slave to the woman's under-nourished children. When Mr. Hammond dies of a heart attack and Anne is sent away to an orphanage, she wonders resolutely whether or not she will ever have a happy home. But fate seems to be on her side when a request comes from Prince Edward Island that an older couple are seeking a little girl. With some trepidation, the school headmistress sends Anne. Meanwhile in Avonlea, Rachael Lind discovers that Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are determined to adopt a little boy and advises her friend seriously against the dangers of bringing an orphan into their home. But rother and sister are quite adamant and Matthew travels to the train station only to discover that there's been some mix-up and the boy isn't a boy at all... it's a fiery-tempered, freckle-faced, imaginative Anne who would much prefer being called "Cordelia." Matthew falls in love with the child at once and not knowing what else to do, takes her home without telling Anne of the mistake. Marilla is at first determined to send the horrified child back but soon agrees to a trial period.
During this time Rachael stops by and storms home after being insulted, an expensive broach of Marilla's turns up missing, Anne makes a new friend in Diana Berry and evokes a lifelong rivalry in Gilbert Blythe, who dared to call her "Carrots." Walking the ridgepole of a roof, frequenting a "haunted" wood, mistaking current wine for raspberry cordial, and sparking off a dangerous series of schoolyard events are only the tip of Anne's iceberg. Much was put into this production and is evident from the director's commentary on the limited edition Canadian release. Amazing visual clarity as well as a depth of character are portrayed with such poignancy that you will be "swept into Anne's world and never want to leave." The book has been in some ways transformed and enlightened by this awe-inspiring miniseries.
The first time that I saw this production, as a spirited seven year old, I became enthralled with Anne and her world. Many of the scenes I recreated in my own way through years of playacting. It has moments of comedy and drama, intermingled with a story with true heart behind it in many touching scenes and even heartbreaking happenings. We follow the life of Anne from a temperamental twelve-year-old to the beginning of womanhood and in that time, something within us also changes. We grow to love the characters and places of Avonlea and file them away to be opened up again in a magnificent package. This is an ideal production, if not for the values and moral core then also for the sheer vibrancy of it. Victorian art at its best, with breathtaking cinematography and lighting effects. The world of Anne has come to life at last and will inspire many a generation of girls to never release their dreams.