As a story about the endurance of love, Persuasion is probably Jane Austen’s most under-appreciated novel. However, it’s also the story that probably gains the most through revisiting over time. For that reason, I was thrilled when I first heard that Netflix would be adapting the novel.
That said, I have to admit to a healthy dose of skepticism, as well. Netflix’s upcoming film isn’t the first time Persuasion has been adapted. Previous adaptations starred Amanda Root 1995 and Sally Hawkins in 2007. There was also a modernized version of the story staring Alicia Witt that I admittedly did not love in 2020.
But in my world, there can never be enough adaptations of stories I love. And I try not to be too much of a purist. Even in adaptations that are flawed, there are often elements to enjoy. I was a bit skeptical of new iterations after the changes to the iconic letter scene in the 2007 movie and the all-around rather cringe-inducing 2020 movie. However I was dubiously optimistic and ready to fall in love with Anne and Captain Wentworth all over again. Because who couldn’t love Anne and Wentworth?
And then the trailer dropped. It reveales a glimpse into a movie that isn’t quite what I expected but in some ways makes me even more excited. Which brings us to the trailer itself:
Okay, let’s get this out of the way off the bat: the film’s apparent propensity to break the fourth wall and have Anne address the audience is going to be a rather divisive decision. I’m on the fence about it, personally. It’s the kind of storytelling decision that sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn’t. I’m willing to wait to see on which side of the line this movie falls. That said, there are those who absolutely detest the decision (outside of perhaps Deadpool).
There is also a sense of playfulness, perhaps, in Anne, which may be a divisive choice. Anne’s story is one of regret, of love held and lost. In a sense, one might think of Anne as a character in stasis. She accepts the decisions (and mistakes) she made in the past, but she’s never been able to really move past them. After ending her engagement with Wentworth, she has never been able to truly move on emotionally and find love again. One doesn’t think of a playful character, and so the glimpses of that trait in this trailer may seem jarring.
However, there is also grief. There is Anne’s pain that comes from her dynamic with Wentworth shift from being more than strangers but less than lovers. And there’s the absolute absurdity and self-involvement of her family, who rejected Wentworth as being “beneath” her. And I’ve never so strongly understood the cause for Wentworth’s jealousy or feared for Anne falling for Mr. Elliot’s charm as I did in the trailer’s brief glimpse of Henry Golding.
The essence of Persuasion is evident in the trailer, even if there are also some artistic decisions that some fans might find jarring. For me, the jury is still out as to whether or not this iteration will supplant the 1995 adaptation as my personal favorite. That’s a very high bar, after all. But seeing this trailer gives me hope that the Netflix adaptation will bring its share of things to love. And I personally can’t wait.
Persuasion releases on Netflix on July 15.