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SYNOPSIS: Anne Shirley (Ella Ballentine), a fiercely imaginative little girl from an orphanage, arrives in Canada's Prince Edward Island in 1907 to live with Matthew (Martin Sheen) and Marilla Cuthbert (Sara Botsford). The middle aged brother and sister, who live on a farm they have named Green Gables, are expecting a little boy to help with the chores, but when Anne arrives, they have to reassess their plans. Meanwhile, the little red-haired girl with the irrepressible personality and temper makes an impact on everyone she meets.

Review by Louise Keller:
A heartfelt retelling of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic children's story Anne of Green Gables, this Canadian telemovie wonderfully captures all the elements of its young red-haired protagonist. It's an uplifting tale about a young orphan whose romanticised, imaginative view of the world impacts on everyone she meets. Simply told, TV director John Kent Harrison invites us into the reality of 11 year old Anne, who longs for love - as well as a bosom friend, ice cream and a pretty dress. It's delightful.

She dreams when she's wide-awake, adores trees, chatters non-stop and has a fiery temperament that matches her red hair, which she describes, is her "lifelong sorrow". Anne Shirley is a unique girl and it is through her eyes that the film unfolds. When Anne (Ella Ballentine) arrives at the Avon Lea train station, she brings with her optimistic hopes for a new life. The fact that her new adoptive parents, the middle-aged Marilla Cuthbert (Sara Botsford) and her brother Matthew (Martin Sheen) are expecting a boy does not augur well for a happy beginning to her stay or to her future. It's easy to fall in love with Anne, with her wide smile and ebullient nature in which she questions everything. "It wouldn't be so interesting if we knew everything about everything," she says.

The heart of the film relies on the development of the various relationships. Most satisfying is the one between Anne and Marilla, a pragmatic, no-nonsense woman with little sentiment that blossoms from its prickly start. Matthew's heart can be turned much more readily and he seems to instinctively connect to the little girl: kindred spirits. The performances are superb: Botsford just right as the strict Marilla, while Sheen makes us feel as though we know what he is thinking. As for Ballentine, she is outstanding. Wide-eyed and innocent, she proffers just the right amount of worldliness as the orphan who asks for just two things as she prays for the first time. That is a lovely scene.

Anne of Green Gables was written 5 years before Pollyanna but there are parallels with the two protagonists. There is something endearing about a protagonist who has never had a friend her own age, talks to the trees and is not afraid to speak out, when there is something to say. The setting is beautiful and as the seasons change, so too does the emotional climate, when Anne finally finds all the things she has been searching for.

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(Canada, 2016)

CAST: Ella Ballentine, Sara Botsford, Martin Sheen

PRODUCER: Ross Leslie

DIRECTOR: John Kent Harrison

SCRIPT: Susan Coyne, Lucy Maud Montgomery


EDITOR: Ron Wisman

MUSIC: Lawrence Shragge

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Production management: Nahid Islam

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 9, 2016 [Limited release: Vic (Lido, Cameo, Sun, Mornington, Waverley Pinewood, ACMi), NSW (Narooma, Bay City - June 26), Qld (New Farm, Cineplex Balmoral, June 23), Tas (State Cinema, June 20), Sa (Trak Cinema) ]

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