POLLYANNA (2003)

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2-5 star | Dir: Sarah Harding

This adaptation of the delightful 1914 children’s novel by Elanor H. Porter retains many of its minor niggles when read from an adult perspective; episodic plot points, unbelievably transformative characters and slight melodrama. Unfortunately it is unable to also retain the sheer warmth and delight that Pollyanna Whittaker’s youthful innocence ushers to both readers and all the people she is exposed to in Beldingsville after moving in with her coldly stern aunt after becoming orphaned.

In Simon Nye’s adaptation her ‘Glad Game’, which is the crux of Pollyanna’s great appeal and her lasting reputation, is given a lot less attention – when Pollyanna is put in the heartbreaking position of becoming paralyzed and so despondent that she herself cannot even play her game, the enchanting moments of all those once-sour people in the town coming to declare to Pollyanna how ‘glad’ they now are after encountering her simply don’t have the same effect because they haven’t been built up to an appropriate degree. A new love story arc is created between Nancy and Timothy which provides interesting leaks into other arcs but it also reduces Nancy’s (Kate Ashfield) vital role as a perennial mother figure for Pollyanna as she transitions into this new situation, sadly wasting Ashfield.

You’ll find cheer in this adaptation but most of it comes from simply following Porter’s creativity. Pollyanna’s constant seeking of ‘gladness’ in every moment no matter how bleak is a wonderfully positive message for children and adults alike, but I wouldn’t rely on this adaptation to become a prescription for health like how Dr. Chilton regards dear Pollyanna.

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