Emma: the 19th Century British Cupid and a Must-See Movie

While online classes aren’t really giving me as much free time as I anticipated, I somehow still make time to watch lots, and lots, of movies. Binge-watching movies goes along with the whole “sweatpants, messy bun, only seeing your family for days on end” aesthetic I am fully embracing right now. 

Before all the madness ensued, I was able to actually get in a car and go with my friends to a movie—a luxury I’m sure none of us will take for granted again. The feature film of the night was Emma, directed by Autumn de Wilde, adapted from the Jane Austin novel of the same title. My seventh grade Clueless-obsessed self was ecstatic as I bought my ticket and reclined in my seat.

I want to kick-start my movie critic career by giving my honest review through the lens of the protagonist. Emma is a meddling matchmaker who decides her life calling is to single-handedly control her friends’ love lives. To say there is a love triangle in this film is an understatement—it's more like a love octagon. Harriet Smith loves Robert Martin, Mr. Elton, and Mr. Knightley, Mr. Elton loves Emma, Jane Fairfax loves Frank Churchill, Robert Martin loves Harriet Smith, Emma loves Frank Churchill and Mr. Knightley, Franck Churchill loves Jane Fairfax, and Mr. Knightley loves Emma. I know—it's quite confusing.

This spider-web of love attraction is the fault of none other than Emma. She is a spoiled anti-hero, and I will confidently assert that nobody is really rooting for her. She portrays this persona of “too good for anybody else,” married to her job of setting up all of her friends. To be fair, some of this stems from her not wanting to leave her lonely father. If she were to marry, she would have to tend to her husband’s family, and no one would be there to care for her widowed father. 

The marriage culture Emma is wrapped up in is certainly not anything we know of today. In 19th century England, girls had to quickly find their husbands and spend the rest of their lives caring for the husband and his family. Although society found this acceptable, and it would have compromised the integrity of the movie director to change the plot, it truly was unsettling to watch this as a female in the 21st century. Let’s just say, Beyoncé, Lizzo, and Michelle Obama were certainly not the strong role models Emma had to look up to. Hopping off my soapbox, I will say the ending is a bit more encouraging.

Spoiler Alert⚠ Skip one paragraph down if you wish to avoid spoilers!

Mr. Knightley and Emma marry after he offers to come live with her, so that she may continue to care for her father in their own home. One point for Mr. Knightley, shattering societal stereotypes one step at a time. The film wraps itself up in a neat, shiny bow, and the audience leaves the theater feeling content and speaking in a British accent for the rest of the night. 

Do not fret! If this analysis was some-what convincing, and you decide to social distance by watching yet another movie, there is a way to watch Emma from home! Since most movie theatres have shut down during quarantine, many in-theater movies are now available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, and YouTube. So, now you can pop your popcorn in the comfort of your own home, turn the lights down low, hop on the couch (if you ever left it) and travel out of the COVID-19 frenzy and into Emma’s elegant world of teas, balls, and weddings.