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This four part adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, stars Romola Garai as the titular Emma, a precocious, well-meaning but interfering young woman, for whom matchmaking is a hobby.  Jonny Lee Miller plays her long-time friend, and eventual husband (and brother-in-law) George Knightley, and Michael Gambon is her worrisome father, who is so frightened for the health of those he loves that he is scared to let Emma out of his sight.

I thought this adaptation was WONDERFUL, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Romola Garai – an actress who is always watchable – was absolutely a perfect choice for Emma, and captured Emma’s playfulness and personal growth exactly as I imagined it should be.  Mr Knightley, who is probably my favourite Austen hero, because of his very essence of goodness and decency, can nonetheless sometimes come across as stern or unbending, but Jonny Lee Miller made him everything that Knightley should be and more.  He clearly adored Emma – and the romantic love between them seemed far more natural and organic in this series than it has done in other adaptations – but was not afraid to stand up to her.  But Miller also showed a more playful and witty side to Knightley.  I also loved Michael Gambon who made Mr Woodhouse a sympathetic rather than a frustrating character – the affectionate relationship between him and Emma was very sweet to watch; Tamsin Greig as the silly but well-meaning Mrs Bates; and Robert Bathurst as their neighbour and friend Mr Weston.

A four hour mini-series will always be able to develop the characters and storyline at a more gradual pace than a two hour film, and it really worked here, with all the characters getting the screen time they deserved, and relationships being shown in all their stages, especially between Emma and Mr Knightley, with her realisation that she is in love with him seeming a natural development.

The series was moving at times, but also showed the wit in Austen’s writing, with several very funny scenes.  It was colourful and sweet, and for my money, probably my very favourite Austen adaptation.  Just wonderful, and all fans of the book, or good period drama should watch it!

Year of release: 2009

Director: Jim O’Hanlon

Producers: Rebecca Eaton, Phillippa Giles, George Ormond, Michas Kotz

Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Sandy Welch

Main cast: Romola Garai, Jonny Lee Miller, Michael Gambon, Jodhi May, Robert Bathurst, Louise Dylan, Blake Ritson, Tamsin Greig, Dan Fredenburgh, Poppy Miller, Laura Pyper, Rupert Evans

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Click here for my review of the novel.

Click here for my review of the 1996 film adaptation starring Kate Beckinsale.

Click here for my review of the 1996 film adaptation starring Gwyneth Paltrow.

Click here for my review of the 1972 mini series.

Click here for my review of the 1995 film Clueless (adaptation of Emma).

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