Gorgeous details combined with a funnier-than-expected screenplay and a wonderful ensemble make this one of the best Jane Austen adaptations in many years. Director Autumn de Wilde and screenwriter Eleanor Catton have infused Emma. with heart, humor, and a positive gloss on the female relationships in the story. Taylor-Joy's expressive face and spot-on mannerisms turn the well-intentioned but clueless main character into a redeemable person who's far more substantial than her superficial matchmaking suggests. Flynn is an unconventional but fabulous choice for Knightley. He's not the typical tall/lantern-jawed hero like the men who play Frank Churchill or Robert Martin, but he's passionate and generous and he sees Emma.
The production design is top-notch, transforming England's countryside into a Regency village with its abbey manses, tenant farms, town shops, and more. The costumes are amazing, including the way that so much about each character is expressed through the costume choices, from Vicar Elton's overblown sleeves to his pretentious bride's larger-than-necessary accessories to Harriet's simple but beautiful dresses and, of course, Emma's to-die-for gowns, which connect her to surroundings and people in each season. Then there's the introduction to Knightley undressing and dressing (yes, you'll see his bum for a quick moment). Even stripped of all the finery and societal norms, it's the relationships that are most important here, and Taylor-Joy, Flynn, Goth, Nighy, and company don't disappoint. The back-and-forth between Emma and Knightley is reminiscent of screwball-comedy banter, and it's hilariously fraught with sexual tension. Those familiar with Austen's work will likely appreciate Emma. the most, but newcomers will also be delighted by this charming adaptation.