Well...better start at one end.
A thing I always feel is very important when a book is adapted is that the film remain faithful to the content and tone of the book. This is definitely a thing this adaption does. It manages to show all the plot points and most of the conversation from the book (and the dialogue is very true to the one in the book). There is time to show it all without rushing it at all, but at the same time without the viewers getting bored.
Another very important thing is the characters. The casting and the portrayal is essential, and I think they have done a marvelous job at that.
Firstly, the casting is brilliant.
Secondly, the actors are brilliant in their portrayals.
I admit the first time I watched it I had to get used to Romola Garai's portrayal of Emma, but now I simply love it. At first she acts very energetic and at times seems immature, but I think it greatly underlines how much she matures during the film. She also brings a playfulness to the part that is very enjoyable.
I think Johnny Lee Millers portrayal of Mr Knightley is just perfection. He is my favourite Knightley ever and really brings all the characters lovely sides forward. I especially love his dynamic with Emma and their little banters. Let's just say this film brought my love for this character to a new level.
As for all the supporting characters I generally enjoy watching them. I love the sweetness of Jane Fairfax and how she is just the sort of person everybody would love.
I really enjoy the role of Mr Woodhouse - especially when they add all the motivation he could have to act the way he does - it makes him a more real character. Where in the book he is more shown as an old man focused on his health and trying to make others follow his advice, here he is shown as a man who knows the pain of loss and therefore tries to protect himself and his loved ones from anything causing illness and death.
Harriet, I think, is made very true to the book. How she at first blindly follow Emma's every opinion but is humble about he own status until she grows to being quite conceited and shocking Emma with her behaviour. Still, she remains a sweet girl and I just think the actress really brings forward everything that Harriet is.
Did I mention I also love the portrayal of Frank Churchill? The way he is shown as a cheerful young man, with quite some mood swings, who everybody loves and nobody really counts as a villain (which he is not at all compared to some of Austen's other villains).
One character I immensely enjoy in this particular film is Miss Bates. While she is still shown as cheerful and a little ridiculous, in this version we get to see behind her facade and realise she is quite aware of her sad situation, but still tryes to keep her spirits up both for herself and her mother. I think that was a very touching moment and it made me understand and like her much better.
Then, of course, there is The Eltons. I love them (and by that I mean I hate them. But that is what I was supposed to, so the actors have greatly fulfilled their job).
Now, that was the acting.
Another thing I that truly sets this version apart from everything else is the storytelling. The little prologue where all the treads is collected and shown, regarding Emma, Jane and Frank is simply brilliant. It quickly shows a connection only hinted at in the book and which I had never thought about before watching this.
In general the screenwriters have been marvellous at seeing little hints and connections in the book and bringing them forward and making them an important part of the story (for instance how Emma has never left Highbury).
Now, on to another important subject.
What is the most important thing in a period drama except for the story and the acting?
You guessed correct...the costumes.
The costumes are so gorgeous! Emma Woodhouse's wardrobe in this film is one of my favourite in all period dramas. Every time I re-watch it I am reminded of even more dresses to add to my list of favourites.
There's just one more thing I need to gush over and that is the music. The music is so lovely and brilliantly underlines the moods and emotions in the different scenes. And the dance music at the ball is just such catchy tunes. My all over favourite must be The Last Dance.
But I like to just listen to a playlist with all the music on repeat. It is very soothing.
Now I think, there should be no one out there doubting why this is my favourite version of Emma.
It is just brilliant all over, and is one of the few period dramas I can just watch over and over again.