Anya Taylor-Joy stars in “Emma.”

What a great day! I recently watched “Emma” at the now open Sawmill Theatres. I might add the safely and correctly distanced Sawmill Theatres. How very glad I am to report that the popcorn tastes as pleasant as in the past.

“Emma” (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) stems from the 1816 novel of that name by every 10th grade English student’s favorite author, Jane Austen. It plays on our remembrances of the society, manners, and social rituals of the English upper class in the Regency period. But underneath the elaborate clothing and stiff-necked ways of the time, we enjoy the never-ending story of a girl and a boy falling in love.

Falling in love with the boy next door, which is even better and more traditional.

In England finding someone to love had terrible obstacles of class considerations, family duty, rigid social conventions, and often a local scarcity of acceptable candidates. Finding a spouse could be arranged by an older family member who would place love at the end of a lengthy list of considerations.

And Emma herself sees no need for marriage. Emma contents herself with matchmaking for any female in her social circle.

“Emma,” the movie treats all of this with gentle good humor and goodwill. Despising the lost morays of a departed era might make for some easy potshots, but screenwriter Eleanor Catton does not go down that well-trodden path. She writes her characters as human people of the age rather than as we sometimes see as paper cutouts for us to ridicule. Catton writes novels in New Zealand. “Emma” is her first screenplay.

Director Autumn de Wilde (American) has an eye for period landscapes. Rich people in those days had splendid views. She also makes the best use of her star player. “Emma” makes her directorial debut, but I think we will see her work in the future.

We know 24-year-old Brit, Anya Taylor-Joy, from her role as an American teen captured by a wildly crazy psycho in two related M. Night Shyamalan. She has other credits on her sheet and several films in various stages of interruption by the current pandemic. Eventually, we will see her again in leading roles.

She is perfect here as a young woman trained to not reveal her emotions, no matter how real or how powerful. She exudes a sense of repressed emotion, shown only by the smallest of facial movements.

Also perfect is Bill Nighy as Emma’s father. In one scene, he and Taylor-Joy share about two minutes of father-daughter time. The pair exchanges no words, never touch and barely look at one another, but convey a world of emotion.

British actor/musician Johnny Flynn plays the boy in the estate next door with bridled frustration.

This watchable and enjoyable three sawblade film welcomes fans back to the darkened seats.

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