Film Review: Road to Avonlea
Road to Avonlea is a television series produced by Sullivan Films that ran from 1990-1996. It ran for seven seasons and is adapted from L. M. Montgomery’s books Anne of Green Gables, The Story Girl, The Golden Road, Chronicles of Avonlea, and Further Chronicles of Avonlea.
This review is based on the first three episodes of Season 1: “The Journey Begins,” “The Story Girl Earns Her Name,” and “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s.”
Review: As a disclaimer, I love Kevin Sullivan’s Anne of Green Gables. Megan Follows will always have a spot in my heart as Anne Shirley, and the interpretation of Avonlea was perfect. Unfortunately, Road to Avonlea does not live up to its standards.
In the first place, I must admit I am somewhat discomfited by the thought of combining so many of Montgomery’s books into a single storyline. I can be somewhat of a purist, particularly when it comes to authors I love, and sticking Anne of Green Gables into The Story Girl makes me want to start screaming about sacrilege. (And it makes even less sense to me when I consider that Sullivan had, in fact, already done Anne.) Mixing in Chronicles of Avonlea is lesser crime, since the book is really composed of short stories that I suppose could, in fact, have happened somewhere around Sara Stanley, and I am not really as invested in those characters as I am in Anne.
The main problem, however, is that Road to Avonlea does not calm many of my fears. If the series were absolutely beautiful, I might be first in line to extol a show that managed to give life to some short stories that might not otherwise have had the chance. But I don’t find it beautiful—at least not these first three episodes. In fact, I found myself watching in a sort of fascinated horror at the poor acting, stuck somewhere between laughing and wanting to cry. This is not what I want to feel when watching Montgomery’s tales.
The essence of the show is still endearing (It would be extremely difficult to deprive Montgomery’s work of all its heart.) “The Story Girl Earns Her Name” gives forth a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling as viewers watch Sara draw the awkwardly shy Jaspar Dale out of his shell and into the Avonlea community. Here, Sara truly displays her magic.
It is also a pleasant surprise to see Colleen Dewhurst reprise her role as Marillia Cuthbert. Even if I find her grumpiness a bit out of character (Anne is supposed to have mellowed her by this point!), it is always good to see a friend in an unexpected place. Mrs. Rachel Lynde, played by Patricia Hamilton, is also back for some uncharacteristic escapades.
I do not believe Road to Avonlea would be a fantastic introduction to Avonlea due to the quality of the actors, but it can still be pure fun for those already in love with the town and its inhabitants. I will be watching more episodes, which is always a good sign!