Film Friday: Emma

Emma sees herself as a matchmaker, a smart and witty young woman who is determined to marry off her best friend Harriet to the best man possible. Just one problem, Harriet is already in love with Robert Martin, and he with her. But Emma thinks Harriet can do better so when Robert writes to propose to Harriet, Emma carefully steers things her own way…

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The interesting thing about Jane Austen’s classic story is that the protagonist Emma is not very likeable! At least not for a good while anyway. She has her own plans in mind, and cannot see that these may be misguided. And so she ploughs on, doing her best to hook up Harriet with all the wrong men.

Emma needs saving from herself. And the man to do it is Mr Knightly. He is level-headed and clear-sighted, and he goes out of his way to save Harriet from embarrassment when she is shunned at the local ball. On another occasion he has to reprimand Emma for publicly insulting one of their friends at a picnic. Emma can too be strong-headed. At the expense of others. Like Mr Knightly, Jesus knew the power people can wield over one another. Which is why we need saving from ourselves, and why he calls us to tread carefully. To bring respect and deference when there might otherwise be denigration and rejection. It’s so tempting to want to prove ourselves strong by capitalising on the weakness of others. To prove ourselves wise by making others appear foolish. To affirm ourselves by controlling others.  This is why Jesus’s parables and lifestyle really matter. They offer us another way. A Mr Knightly kind of way. To regard the disregarded, to lift up the crushed. Not easy. It’s a way that is strewn with mistakes. But the good news is that there is always another chance to offer a smile of peace to another.

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  1. Mark Roques says:

    Thanks for this Dave. I really enjoyed reading your take on this film. ‘A Mr Knightly kind of way’. Excellent!

  2. Glenys Richardson says:

    Despite most critics saying that Emma is not likeable, I always liked her! Yes she gets it wrong but she means well. She is a self sacrificing daughter, a very loyal pupil to her governess and is open when challenged to be truly sorry for her sins. She is able to say sorry and try and make amends.

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