Set in the early-19th century, Emma begins when Miss Emma Woodhouse’s long-time governess and faithful friend, Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan), marries Mr Weston (Rupert Graves). Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy) congratulates herself on making the match, while her hypochondriac father Mr Woodhouse (Bill Nighy) bemoans the loss of a member of his household.
To fill the void left by Miss Taylor, Emma forms a friendship with Harriet Smith (Mia Goth), a young lady with a mysterious background whose social standing Emma hopes to elevate. When she learns of Harriet’s affections for a farmer, Emma persuades her to set her hopes higher and contrives a match between Harriet and the local preacher Mr Elton (Josh O’Connor). Unfortunately, Mr Elton has eyes only for Emma. When Mr Elton breaks Harriet’s heart and Emma refuses him, he disappears only to return weeks later with a snobby and ostentatious wife (Tanya Reynolds).
Meanwhile Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) returns to see his father and meet his new stepmother. Frank seems to pay special attention to Emma, but she thinks Harriet has fallen in love with him. When he turns out to be secretly engaged to another woman, Emma is devastated for Harriet. She’s even more upset when she learns that Harriet has never thought of Frank as a suitor but has fallen in love with Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn), the same man Emma herself has unexpectedly come to love.
Emma sets about making amends for the harm she has unintentionally caused and does her best to ensure not only Harriet’s happiness but also her own.
The perils of matchmaking; hypochondria; difficult family relationships; gossip; class prejudice and snobbery
Emma has some violence. For example, Harriet is ambushed by gypsies on her way home from a dance. This isn’t shown on screen. Frank Churchill comes to Harriet’s rescue and carries her home. She is unharmed.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Emma shows some use of substances. For example, characters drink socially during a festive dinner.
Nudity and sexual activity
Emma has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- When Frank Churchill arrives at his father’s house, he strips off before having a sponge bath. He is seen fully naked from the back and side.
- Emma lifts up the back of her dress to better warm herself by the fire. Her bare thigh and the side of one buttock are shown.
- Emma wears a sheer nightdress in one scene with nothing underneath.
- Women often show cleavage because of the dress styles of the early-19th century.
Emma has no coarse language other than one use of the word ‘stupid’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Emma is a period movie based on the classic novel by Jane Austen. It is a warm-hearted story, set against a beautiful background and featuring many charming performances. The highbrow language might be difficult for younger viewers to follow.
Jane Austen fans and mature female viewers are most likely to enjoy this movie.
These are the main messages from this movie:
- It’s more important to be kind than to be right.
- Love will prevail.
- Love is often much closer than we might expect.
Values in Emma that you could reinforce with your children include kindness, friendship, generosity, courtesy and respect.
Emma could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like the risks of:
- gossip and how gossip can affect friendships
- matchmaking and how this can affect other people’s lives and relationships.