Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: Anne of Green Gables

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Sara Botsford, Ella Ballentine and Martin Sheen in Anne of Green Gables.
Sara Botsford, Ella Ballentine and Martin Sheen in Anne of Green Gables.

Before there was The Hunger Games' Katniss Everdeen, Brave's Merida, Easy A's Olive, or any number of films with young feminists standing up for themselves and doing what's right, there was Anne Shirley of Green Gables.

A talkative red-haired orphan with a vivid imagination and glass-half-full attitude, Anne was the creation of author Lucy Maud Montgomery, who released her first Anne of Green Gables novel in 1908.

Set on Canada's Prince Edward Island, the books put the area on the map, and created a lovely young heroine who is still relevant today.

Ella Ballentine and Martin Sheen in Anne of Green Gables.
Ella Ballentine and Martin Sheen in Anne of Green Gables.

This adaptation, staring the charming Ella Ballentine as Anne, Sara Botsford as the practical Marilla Cuthbert and Martin Sheen as her soft-hearted brother Matthew Cuthbert, retains the spirit and charm of Montgomery's novel, much like the 1985 television series staring Megan Follows, which many will remember fondly.

Anne comes to live with the Cuthberts by accident - they had requested a boy orphan to help with farm duties, but Anne's willingness to do "boys' work" and unique view of the world (here's an 11-year-old who has mastered mindfulness a century before everyone else), makes it difficult for the Cuthberts to give up this unusual girl.

Ballentine is charming as Anne, the settings are as you imagine, and the story features just enough of Anne's signature catastrophes, such as accidentally getting "bosom friend" Diana drunk, and smashing a slate over Gilbert Blythe's head.

It's wonderfully old-fashioned, except for the women playing a prominent role running the island community, and Anne's issues are the same as many pubescent girls today - a longing to belong and dealing with bullying, prejudice and the minefield of friendships.

This is a made-for-television movie, and looks it. But if you can see past the obviously dotted-on freckles on Anne's nose and the simple production values, then Anne of Green Gables is rather lovely. Perfect mother and daughter viewing these holidays.

Review: Anne of Green Gables

Cast: Sara Botsford, Martin Sheen
Director: John Kent Harrison
Running Time: 89 mins
Rating: PG
Verdict: A sweet and faithful adaptation.

- NZ Herald

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