Reviewed By: Umar Bin Adnan
Emma (2020) was directed by Autumn de Wilde. It stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner and Mia Goth. The movie follows Emma Woodhouse (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) a young woman belonging to a wealthy family and her misadventures as she constantly gets involved in the lives of others.
Going into this movie, I was really skeptical and even a bit scared considering almost everyone who’s reviewed this movie has praised it. Let me tell you that it did not disappoint. After the credits rolled, I was sure that I had watched probably the best English language film to be released in 2020.
Emma 2020 Movie Storyline
Anya Taylor-Joy has had pretty much a perfect year. Between “Emma” and “The Queen’s Gambit“, she’s given one incredible performance after another. In “Emma”, Joy inhabits her character she makes it seem like you’re witnessing a character right out of a classical novel. However, apart from style, her performance also has substance as her character never feels too exaggerated. This is due to the fact that her character feels human and even relatable to a degree. In regards to the supporting cast, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth and Miranda Hart were pretty good for what they were given. Miranda Hart as Mrs Bates stood out the most for me. I thought she had a perfect sense of what emotion to express at a given situation. She was comedic when the script demanded her to be yet emotional whenever the scene was of that sort.
The spellbinding cinematography adds an extra layer to “Emma”. It would not be wrong to say that without Christopher Blauvelt’s enchanting cinematography, “Emma” would’ve just been a cliché period piece. There is one sequence that comes towards the end of the movie where our characters are in a room filled with classical paintings and the way that sequence is shot is orgasmic. It composed of scenes that were perfectly symmetrical, well lit and just beautiful to look at. I love the aesthetic value of this movie and especially during the sequence I just talked about…
In “Barry Lyndon” (1975), John Alcott used his camera to make the film feel like it’s frozen in a particular era and the same can be said about Blauvelt’s cinematography technique in “Emma”. The movie feels like it is frozen in a certain period of time because of how it is shot. Of course, it is shot at locations which are really beautiful to look at however, the way Blauvelt handles the camera makes each frame look like a classical painting. What I mean by this is that you can look at any frame of this movie and it would look like a classical art piece from the classical era. In that way, “Emma” seems pretty similar to “Barry Lyndon”.
However, there is another aspect of the cinematography that differentiates between the two films. That aspect is that Alcott in “Barry Lyndon” mostly utilized natural lighting in order to make the movie feel as dated and frozen in time as possible however, in “Emma” there is comparatively less natural lighting. This is so that the movie can feel like a novel rather than an actual historical account. It makes the movie feel larger than life yet keeps it feeling grounded. That’s basically the strength of “Emma”, it looks and feels like you’re seeing a novel play out in the form of film thanks to the amazing cinematography.
Basing a movie off of a classical literature piece is a quite difficult job. Firstly, a lot of people before watching the movie have already read the source material hence, its very likely that they’ll feel that the movie is diverging from the actual novel. Secondly, it’s pretty hard to capture the characters, setting and the tone of a bygone era based on a novel. However, “Emma” meets both of these requirements. The movie is an accurate adaptation of the original novel yet it is acted, directed and written in such a way that people who haven’t read the book can easily relate to the characters while also appreciating the attention to detail that Autumn de Wilde has achieved in making this movie. The sets are lavishly designed and complement the cinematography in enchanting the viewer. They also perfectly capture the atmosphere and the setting of the source material.
To further solidify the novel-like feeling of ‘Emma”, the soundtrack plays a major role. Classical music is utilized and like combined with the cinematography, perfectly captures the time period shown in the movie while also making it giving a novel-like characteristic.
Comedic moments are pretty well done and often contain sarcastic humor. It is pretty characteristic of British humor to be based mostly on sarcasm and that aspect of British humor is utilized to perfection in Emma. I found myself chuckling at almost every joke because of process that went behind establishing the comedic tone. The comedic tone never drops in this movie due to its dry nature even when the movie puts forward serious situations, the comedic undertones keep the movie from becoming too serious.
There are certain issues that I came across however. The first is that the supporting cast was never really developed and I didn’t see myself rooting for any of the supporting characters except Mr. Knightley. Much of that is due to the fact that the supporting characters are pretty one dimensional and only have one defining trait. However, this flaw can be forgiven as the movie is really being told from the perspective of Emma. Secondly, although the movie has a personality of its own and feels unique as compared to other movies of its genre, its still something that we’ve seen before. It’s perfect as a movie however, it has been done before but rarely this masterfully.
My Final Verdict On The Movie
All in all, “Emma” is a near masterpiece and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching any other 2020 movie this much. I’m not generally a big fan of period pieces set in classical Britain like “Pride or Prejudice” for example. However, “Emma” is an exception to that because of its brilliant tone, an impressive cast, spellbinding cinematography and it’s entertaining tone. Although the movie does nothing new, its almost perfect for what the director was going for. For those reasons, I believe that “Emma” is not only the best English language movie of 2020 but might just be the best overall movie of 2020.