Twenty-one-year-old Emma Woodhouse (Romola Garai) lives a charmed life. She's rich, she lives comfortably with her doting father (Sir Michael Gambon) and has everything she could possibly want. To her friends she is known as a consummate matchmaker. But when Harriet Smith (Louise Dylan), a young woman who is both naive and of inferior social status arrives, it gives Emma another chance to find love for her. Unfortunately things go horribly awry causing turmoil for Emma and those around her.
Emma is one of Jane Austen's most beloved novels (probably ranking right behind Pride and Prejudice) and rightly so. Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen's greatest heroines and Romola Garai provides an absolutely pitch perfect portrayal in this adaptation. As with any Austen adaptation, it is not only the ability to handle the dialogue but more importantly be able to express the emotion behind the script (often without saying a word) that presents the greater challenge.
Louise Dylan as Harriet Smith and Romola Garai as Emma Woodhouse in Emma
Another brilliant stroke of casting was Sir Michael Gambon as Mr. Woodhouse. His role in this adaptation is much larger than others and as a result we get a much better sense of the relationship between himself and Emma.
This film also utilizes beautiful locations which are discussed in detail on one of the bonus features on the disc. You feel through them that you have been transported right back into the time in which the novel was set.
The BBC has again as it has done with other recent period pieces shown why they are so good at this type of drama. They have gone to great lengths to make the production as authentic to the setting as possible. As with other productions, the BBC pays a great amount of attention to getting details right and this shows in the quality of the production.
But the most important aspect of this production is time. At approximately four hours, the length is just right to tell this story at the pace at which it needs to be told. Perhaps it is something about Ms. Austen's novels that when adapted for screen or television they seem to be better when they are longer and more time is taken to tell the story.
Fans of Ms. Austen's novels will no doubt be pleased with this adaptation of Emma. Time will tell whether Ms. Garai's portrayal of Emma Woodhouse will rank as one of the better performances. As far as I am concerned, this is not only one of the better adaptations of this novel I have seen but it ranks among the best of any of Austen's novels to be translated to film.