Basic Summary – Anne arrives in Charlottetown to attend accelerated classes, and she continues to work toward her dream of being a school teacher. Anne finds herself facing choices for her future, stirrings of romance, and tragedy unlike anything she’s ever known.
Anne of Green Gables, produced in 2016 as a made-for-television production, follows the basic storyline as the book does. Though this is only an hour and a half production, there are many similarities to the book. However, the production adds some scenes that weren’t originally in the story and takes away some other scenes that help explain the development of Anne Shirley and everyone around her.
An aspect that is added in the made-for-television film is that we get to see flashbacks of Anne’s former homes along with her time in the orphanage. These flashbacks are to demonstrate the severity of Anne’s former homes with an abusive father running a home to strict rules that she doesn’t comply to. The flashbacks are relatively toned down for the audience they are played for since it was played on PBS in America back in 2016. It also explains why Anne doesn’t talk about her former homes and instead distracts herself by using her imagination.
In addition, the PBS production adds more to certain events and objects to help with understanding its importance. Although Marilla and Matthew were expecting a boy to help around the farm, they have Anne learn how to help around by milking the cows and getting the eggs from the chicken coop. They break away from gender norms by having her learn the work instead of returning her to the orphanage (although it is learned that they can’t immediately). Another situation in where the television production adds more to items is Marilla’s broach. The broach that goes missing, in the book, merely is described as a beautiful broach with lots of history. While in the production, they include a photo of Marilla’s mother in it as to demonstrate Marilla’s love for it. In addition, something that isn’t mentioned in the book, but is known in future books is Matthew’s failing heart. They introduce his heart problems early on even having the doctor come by to check in on him and warn him early on about taking an easy.
In addition, they add a completely new scene to the show which is everything that happens during winter. In the book, Anne injures herself by falling off of a roof during a dare; however, this has been toned down to her walking out on thin ice and falling into a pond during a dare. Matthew ends up coming to her rescue and takes her home. Another scene is that the children are decorating the school for the holiday. During these scenes, the Gilbert-Anne romance is introduced; however, it is very quick as opposed to other versions where it is introduced from the first picnic. In addition, religion is emphasized more in the show where Anne has does her prayers under Marilla’s guidance and the inclusion of the Christmas program as well. Although they add some details, they remove some important ones that define the characters as who they are.
The biggest problems that the 2016 production took away was the seriousness of Matthew and Marilla’s characters. Matthew is turned into a comedic-relief character which takes away most of the charm from his depiction in the book. He doesn’t appear a quiet and withdrawn person, instead he is talkative and willing to help out Anne in any situation in which she needs help. Marilla’s character had the most taken away from her. Though she is still tough when needed, she is relatively kind to Anne. Most attributes given to Marilla are replaced by teaching moments and understanding when she is wrong. She puts Anne to work immediately when she arrives, but actually shows emotion when needed – especially at the end when Anne is to be sent off back to the orphanage, she breaks down and asks Anne to stay with her and Matthew which then she embraces Anne’s hug. This could be related to Anne’s age in the PBS production; however, it could also be related to that this is target at young children, they don’t want a “tough-skinned” Marilla portrayal.
The adaptation of Anne of Green Gables for 2016 highlighted the changing times in the media with the changing of certain details and addition of others, though the importance of the story is still focused on Anne’s development within her new home at Green Gables. There is a feeling by the end of this film that there was an attempt to have a sequel for it, but maybe it still laid in the shadows of its 1985 predecessor causing any hope for a sequel to be turned down.