“Persuasion,” the new Netflix period drama starring Dakota Johnson, is dull and lacking in emotions. The film tries to mingle on safe ground by having a character with a modern sensibility in a story set in the 19th Century. This aspect worked against the film because we never truly got to know Anne Elliot’s personality. The pain she experienced after having to let go of her sailor lover, since he was neither of high rank nor did he possess any wealth, was only expressed in words and not emotions. She was persuaded by society and its norms to give up on her one true love, and even after eight years, she is not over, but the toll the separation had on her was far from convincing in “Persuasion.” The film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel fails to be period accurate. From the appearance of Johnson to the way the characters converse, it is almost as if the film is unaware of what it truly wants to do. While an adaptation can take certain liberties, not to the point where the essence of the period is lost in the process, or what it ends up delivering, makes one regret the adaptation itself.
‘Persuasion’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Anne Elliot is heartbroken after being forced to separate from her lover, Frederick Wentworth, because he was not of high rank and did not possess enough wealth to marry Anne. Even after eight long years, she cannot get him out of her mind and holds dearly on to the little gifts they exchanged during their courtship, along with paper cuttings of newspapers that mentioned his achievement as a Captain. Wentworth was now a Captain and was a highly valued member of the British Navy.
Anne was not highly regarded in her family. Her father, Sir Walter Elliot, was a man of vanity, and after her mother’s death, he lost all control of his expenses. Her elder sister, Elizabeth, was inconsiderate and shallow and could see nothing beyond her beauty. Her younger sister, Mary, was married to the heir of the Uppercross Estate, Charles Musgrove. Anne was a 27-year-old single woman, something that was looked down upon during her time and made her the least favorite daughter of her father. Their luxurious life came to a standstill when debtors started entering their property asking for money. Sir Elliot was advised to reduce his expenses by his advisor, but he struggled to figure out how. Lady Russell, Anne’s mother’s best friend, came to his rescue to suggest the changes that could be made. She had promised her friend to not let the family be destroyed, and she wanted to do her best to stop that from happening. She suggested that they rent their London house and move to Bath. The expenses would be reduced, and they would receive a good amount of rent as well. Sir Elliot agreed to the plan. Even though Sir Elliot was not too keen on renting his lavish hall to a naval officer, he later had to settle for it. Admiral Croft and his wife were to stay at their property, and as luck would have it, Frederick Wentworth was the brother of the Admiral’s wife. Anne was left behind to receive the guests while her father and Elizabeth traveled to Bath. She showed the Admiral and his wife around the house and even mentioned that she knew Frederick Wentworth. She was informed that Wentworth would be in London in two days. The fact that she would chance upon him after eight years was satisfying yet nerve-wracking. She knew he was not married, but she was worried as to how he would perceive her since she was the one who rejected him.
Anne met with her sister, Mary, who was quite the attention seeker. She needed everyone around her to sympathize with her. She was mostly overwhelmed by the duties she had to perform as a mother and often felt that it was all too unfair. Anne listened to her stories, and even if she did not respond adequately, it did not affect Mary at all. Anne loved Mary’s two sons and her two sisters-in-law, Louisa and Henrietta. They were informed that the Admiral, along with his wife and brother, would be over for dinner at Mary’s house. While Anne looked forward to the meeting, Charles (Mary’s son) injured his hand. Mary was asked to stay home by her husband to look after little Charles, but she was not prepared to let go of the opportunity to have dinner with the Crofts. She established how the fact that she was too emotional as a result of her son’s injury required her to stay away from him, forcing Anne to look after Charles. Anne agreed to do so and watched the rest of the family enjoy dinner. The next morning, just when Anne was making fun of Captain Wentworth, he entered the house. Anne was caught off-guard; she could not help but notice how grown-up the Captain looked after all these years. After their brief conversation, they met again at dinner. Even though Louisa wanted Anne to find love in Frederick she could not help herself from finding the Captain admiring.
Anne noticed Louisa and Wentworth laughing together all night. She played sad music as she watched the couple dance to their joy. She finally had the man she had dreamt of for eight years. She had so much to say to him, yet she could not bring words out of her mouth now that he was in front of her. She felt guilty about the past, but at the same time, she could not abandon her feelings for him.
See More: ‘Persuasion’ Review – Dakota Johnson Looks Like A Painting In This Picturesque And Plotless Netflix Film
Who Was Mr. Elliot?
Anne was invited by Wentworth to visit his naval friends in Lyme, along with Mary and her family. She watched the growing fondness between Louisa and the Captain. Louisa was head over heels for him and admitted her feelings to Anne. She felt guilty for having her eyes on the Captain when she was the one to suggest Anne try her luck with him. But after noticing how reluctant Anne was towards the prospect, she decided to pursue her interest. Anne had overheard Frederick express how she was just like the rest of the novelty to Louisa. She protested on her behalf, stating how empathetic Anne was always. After overhearing this conversation, she knew Frederick continued to resent her, and even if she hoped for him to not be angry with her, it was not quite the situation.
As Anne took in the scenic beauty of Lyme, Frederick Wentworth had a word with her. He apologized on behalf of the gentleman they met on their way who crossed Anne’s path. Even though they were no longer together, Frederick could not help himself from protecting Anne whenever he sensed danger. He dreamt of her, and Anne added that she, too, dreamt of various versions of him over the years. She feared that he would never know how much she felt for him. Frederick was quick to add that he knew how much she cared since he had never met someone like her. It was the reason why he wanted her to be a part of his life just the way she was, but instead of love, he offered her friendship. Anne accepted his offer, though they were clearly in love with one another. Frederick thought of Anne whenever he was confused about what decision he should take. Her clarity guided him always. Even though he expressed his disregard for her to Louisa to establish how little he cared for her, in reality, he thought of her every second of each day.
The “rude gentleman” whom they met in Lyme was Mr. Elliot. He was taken by Anne’s beauty when he came across her, and she, too, was intrigued by him. Later, she got to know that the man was her cousin, Mr. Elliot, the heir to her father’s estate. He was known to be a cunning man, and Anne doubted the reason why he was suddenly visiting Bath. Mr. Elliot visited the Elliot family, and he was surprised that Anne was his cousin, though he was persistent in pursuing her. Anne, too, could not shrug off the attention completely. What truly changed her heart was when she heard from Lady Russell that Louisa and Frederick Wentworth were getting married. This shattered Anna to the core, and she tried to move on with the affection that was bestowed upon her by Mr. Elliot. Frederick came to Bath and saw Anne and Mr. Elliot together. He did not know about the couple and was quite shocked to meet Anne’s new lover. Mr. Elliot invited him to a concert at their place, and Frederick agreed, even though it was not an easy decision.
But what Anne had anticipated about Mr. Elliot was correct and not something that he shied away from. He was indeed in Bath for business. He wanted to keep an eye on Sir Elliot and Miss Clay’s relationship. He feared that the two would get married and produce an heir, risking his chance at winning the title. He confessed the truth to Anne, and she was not surprised by it. Nonetheless, he maintained that his affection for Anne was pure.
‘Persuasion’ Ending Explained: Did Anne And Frederick Wentworth Get Married?
Louise jumped off the road hoping to be caught by the Captain but instead injured her head. After her recovery, she and Frederick decided on marriage. Even though Anne knew the truth, she could not help herself from discussing life with her former lover. Frederick was offered a position aboard a ship, and he could not decide whether to take his role or stay back. While it was a great opportunity, something was stopping him from making the decision. It was perhaps the hope to somehow win back Anne, but when Mr. Elliot announced that he would marry Anne, he knew it was too late now.
Mary invited Anne to join them to meet Wentworth before they left for their journey. Even though Anne was reluctant at first, she was convinced later on. After reaching, she learned that Wentworth had made up his mind to go on the journey, and he was confirming it. Anne went on to have a word with Captain Harville. He was a little depressed by the fact that his sister’s lover, Captain Benwick, had fallen in love with another woman. Benwick was in mourning after the death of his lover, and somehow that helped Harville to keep the memories of his sister alive; but now that he had moved on, his sister’s absence became all the more prominent. He believed that his sister would not have been able to get over a relationship that soon. Anne supported the idea, stating that one of the greatest qualities of a woman is that she could never forget that easily. She believed women were capable of loving the longest. It was during this conversation that Harville mentioned that Benwick was to marry Louisa. The two fell in love after her injury when he started to cater to her every need. This surprised Anne; the man she loved all her life was not getting married, as she had assumed.
Wentworth listened to the conversation between the two and left a note for Anne. It was on that note that he proclaimed his love for her. He added that it is wrong to believe that men forget love sooner. Her love for him did not last as long as his love for her. Nevertheless, he decided to be honest with his feelings. Even though she was to marry Mr. Elliot, he believed he could never get over his love for her. Anne did not take a moment to think; she knew what she wanted now more than ever. She ran to talk to Wentworth, and on her way, she saw Mr. Elliot making out with Miss Clay. He tried to explain himself, but she couldn’t care less. She ran to her lover and kissed him, an ending that they both hoped for but did not dare to demand. Their circumstances and misunderstandings, in a way, helped them to realize that they could not live without each other, thus saving those they pretended to be attracted to from a loveless relationship.
At the end of “Persuasion,” Mr. Elliot married Miss Clay, something that he perhaps did to cement his position as the heir. While love for Mr. Elliot was nothing more than a business deal, it was not the same for everyone. The film discusses how there are all kinds of love around us, each unique in its stories. Frederick taught Anne nautical navigation as they prepared to leave for their journey. She wanted to enjoy Venice before setting off for Constantinople. Even though it would require a turnaround, Wentworth was ready to do it now that she was his fiancé.
It is crucial to understand the importance of social status for Anne and how she believed in social norms. She broke off her relationship with a man because she was expected to do so by society, and she respected it. Lady Russell provides the reason behind such a belief. According to her, it is about a woman choosing a lifestyle, and a poor lifestyle by choice was never an option. Therefore, in more than one way, the Netflix film “Persuasion” fails to understand the character and contradicts her to an extent. She is portrayed as a feminist, whereas the reason why she could marry Wentworth was because of his equal social status and wealth. Anne Elliot is a complicated character who is a lot more than a few witty words and smirks. All this and much more makes “Persuasion” an uninteresting watch.
“Persuasion” is a 2022 Period Drama film directed by Carrie Cracknell.