Many Anne fans would like to pretend that this adaptation simply does not exist. Since it does, that is impossible. Fifteen years after the success of Anne of Green Gables, Sullivan has again attempted to try his hand at progressing with the Anne story. Abandoning the books completely, he gives us an Anne story that more resembles a detective novel than Montgomery.
The film begins with Anne's return to Avonlea but she finds it much changed despite Diana's welcoming smile. Green Gables has become completely run down and the threat of WWI is running rampant through the world, even as far as their secluded town. Gilbert has been offered a position of importance at the medical hospital and collage in New York and persuades Anne (Megan Follows) to spend a few months there prior to their marriage. The big city isn't all its cracked up to be, especially when Anne comes into contact with flippant young author Jack Garrison, who offers her the chance to become a published author in a co-written novel. However, Anne does all the work and the publishers decide that only Jack's name will appear upon the volume. At this same time, Gilbert (Jonathan Crombie) defies his superior and both decide that a move back to Avonlea would be best. WWI has stretched at last into Prince Edward Island, pulling away many of Anne's childhood friends... and enemies. Even wealthy Diana (Schuyler Grant) isn't left untouched when Frank decides to enlist.
Gilbert, concerned for the medical needs overseas, also at last enlists to the distress of Anne and a day after their wedding he departs for France. Several years go by in which Anne becomes a published author but then the dreadful news hits Avonlea. Several of the townsmen were killed in France and Fred has been classified as missing in action. Shortly thereafter all of Anne's many letters to Gilbert are returned unopened. Determined to find out what has happened to her husband, Anne travels to France under the Red Cross and engages in a long search for Gilbert along the front lines. On her way she encounters Jack Garrison, who is attempting to get a young woman and a baby to safety and is then thrown into international espionage. With enemies at every turn and hope in her heart, Anne must face the harsh reality of war... and pray that Gilbert is still alive.
As I mentioned before, the story bears little or no resemblance to the novels. However I didn't really mind. I think Sullivan's greatest mistake was throwing Anne into the front lines for at least an hour of the film. Anne-watchers are girls, and generally girls don't like war films. And this is what Anne III is -- a war film. There's explosions, blood, even some rather sickening moments inside the hospital tent where patients are having arms and legs amputated. (Non-graphically, but the sound of a saw will set anyone's stomach to turning.) It's unusually dark and depressing at times with few of the laughable moments we expect from Anne Shirley. The acting, directing, costumes, sets and backdrops are wonderfully produced and the story believable; had it not been Anne, I think the film would have gone over wonderfully. But those true to the memories of Montgomery's freckle-faced "kindred spirit" aren't going to like this adaptation. It gives her a more mature outlook with hardly any of that fiery red temper of hers. But on the other hand it also brings to mind the truth that life isn't all fun and games and everyone, no matter who they are, goes through difficulty. It just so happens that this time around, Anne got the worst of things.
It does have a happy (and rather cute) ending and I liked it fine. It will never quite fit in with the other two installments and in my opinion isn't half as good as Anne of Avonlea (my personal favorite) but it is an entertaining and worthwhile three hours. I would caution you to pay close attention however for the storyline at times is difficult to follow, especially when we get into the matter of secret codes and international intrigue. The villains are nasty but masked so we never really know who's evil and who's not until it's too late. It's not really Anne, but then that doesn't really matter.