I don't normally write Amazon reviews but after watching this adaptation of Emma (and pre-ordering the DVD as soon as it appeared here) I felt compelled to encourage others to do the same. I read Emma over ten years ago, in my teens, and enjoyed the book, but since then have seen the Gwyneth Paltrow film and the Kate Beckinsale TV adaptation and had to admit, they left me cold. I thought that I must just be destined not to enjoy this Austen novel as much as the others. This adaptation has proven me wrong - I have loved every minute of it! It even encouraged me to dig the novel out and reread it again, and I was surprised how, despite the clear modernisations and dramatic licence, much of the dialogue originates in the text and is merely shortened to fit the time limitations. Other additions work very well, giving us more of an insight into the respective characters.
The lead characters are perfect for me - others have complained about their respective ages but I think Romola Garai plays a twenty year old very convincingly. While others have complained about her 'smarminess', it is worth remembering that Emma is supposed to be a snobbish, manipulative, spoiled young woman who comes of age during the novel, to understand herself and her own feelings towards Mr Knightley. Garai portrays this beautifully - her Emma is manipulative and a little vain about her social standing, but she is also very caring, open and artless (directly opposed to Mrs Elton) and in my opinion eminently likeable. Emma is, after all, very young, and it is her youth that leads her into so many mistakes and misjudgements. As for Miller, he plays Mr Knightley as a slightly eccentric but extremely intelligent and caring mentor who spars beautifully with Emma on many occassions, providing some of the best scenes. He is able to show his realisation of the feelings he has for Emma wonderfully with his facial expressions, especially in the gorgeous dance scene (in which Emma, against social conventions, asks Mr Knightley to dance, just as she does in the book, showing the friendly familiarity of the two characters and also Austen's happiness to allow her characters to flount some of the rules of Regency society, something which so many modern day 'purists' seem unable to do).
All of the supporting characters are also beautifully cast - I particularly like John and Isabella Knightley and the portrayal of their loving though sometimes flawed relationship. The sets and costumes are gorgeous - I'm sure there are anachronisms but you would have to be a Regency Period specialist to spot them and allow them to mar your enjoyment.
All in all, one of the best costume dramas the BBC has produced in a while - the last one that gave me this much enjoyment was North and South, and it is no surprise to me they were produced by the same writer. Sandy Welch seems to have the ability to update a novel while still taking the innate sentiments and meaning of the dialogue to transcribe a classic story into a fresh and enjoyable modern television drama. Thoroughly recommended.