Persuasion explores the what-ifs of unfinished and broken relationships, finding love unexpectedly and returning to the arms of the one before. Netflix’s film begins with a not-so-subtle nod to the title, with Anne Elliot describing her love for Captain Frederick Wentworth before she “was persuaded to give him up”. It’s quite an unnatural delivery, but Dakota Johnson tries her best to keep the rest of the script grounded.
The trio of actors play their roles very well: Cosmo Jarvis comes across as awkward and bitter, with a softness inside; Henry Golding is suave and cool, and has excellent chemistry with Johnson, and the latter is the absolute star of the feature. She puts a lot of effort into making Anne as realistic and likeable as possible, her facial expressions and delivery giving life and wit to the performance, which saves the character from coming off as boring. Unfortunately, the script is just too weak to properly do justice to the story (and it doesn’t help that the overall dynamic of the love triangle remains ineffective, regardless of which side the viewer prefers).
Johnson addresses the camera directly as Anne narrates and explores her inner thoughts; she breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience – perhaps a metaphor for the fact that no one else in her life seems to truly see her. A lot of the comedy is executed through these moments between Anne and the viewer, which helps enhance the irony. But there’s no balance, and the script is just a bit too literal at times. Shaky camerawork during awkward interactions brings an enjoyable production quirk, as if the film is trying to relay the secondhand embarrassment to the audience.
Colour filters mostly stay neutral with sharp contrasts, shifting just a tad with the weather and location and adding shades of warmth and coolness when necessary. It’s a somewhat questionable choice because it doesn’t provide the old-time flare of the period, which may be indicative of the intention to create a hybrid of modern and classic, through the script, casting and editing. In general, Persuasion is just one of those films that tries too hard and doesn’t exactly know what it wants to be, so it ends up doing everything poorly.
Persuasion is released on Netflix on 15th July 2022.
Watch the trailer for Persuasion here: