A Wrinkle in Time Review
Phantasmagorical Disney fantasy
Science, magic, imagination and hope collide in this phantasmagorical fantasy film from Ava DuVernay.A Wrinkle in Time is a film with microscopes, Stepford-style neighbourhoods, a literal sandwich, dimension travel and a flying leaf creature. It’s weird, and at times it can seem saturated with CGI, and at times the plot doesn’t seem to make much logical sense. But it’s a film with huge heart, and a beautiful moral, and a real lead character you can root for. This is a film about children, for children. If you approach this as a grown-up, you’re unlikely to be won over. The key to enjoying A Wrinkle in Time is to really throw yourself into the magic of it – and understand that what you’re watching is historic. Make no mistake – kids’ film or not – this is a landmark event in the history of popular cinema, particularly riding in the wake of Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, which was also commissioned by Disney. Director Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time marks the first time in the history of film that a woman of colour has been given control of a $100 million dollar movie. It features a young black actress in the lead role. And it features Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling among the supporting (and predominantly female both in front of and behind the camera) ensemble, marking an important moment in diverse casting.Our heroine is Meg Murry, played by the excellent Storm Reid. She’s a teenager who, refreshingly, looks and acts like one. Her father (Chris Pine) disappeared four years ago, and she’s never quite gotten over it. Before she was a talented, gifted student; now she’s sullen, grief-stricken and outspoken. When she finds herself in trouble with her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and at school, she turns to her staunch defenders – precocious younger brother Charles (Deric McCabe) and classmate Calvin (Levi Miller). Testament to the ground-breaking nature of this film, Calvin is well and truly sidelined – like countless ‘girlfriends’ in Hollywood films since time immemorial. He’s a cheerleader for Meg; a throwaway character in her story who’s in lots of key scenes with little reason to be there. In fact, this speaks to one of the flaws of this larger than life film; there’s simply so much going on, so much backstory and so much plot to pack in, that a lot seems to be lost in translation. The fact that there are story elements missing and some things glossed over and others left to our imagination entirely might be a bit disconcerting for the adults among us; though for a wide-eyed child audience this only adds to the magic of the movie.
Madeleine L’Engle’s novel on which this film is based is a cult classic, and notoriously difficult to adapt. Naturally, with a two-hour run time, some of the narrative explanations and backstories are omitted on screen, but much of the book’s heart, spirit and hope is captured within the film’s plot.
The book’s trio of mystical helpers, Mrs Whatsit (Reece Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey) are larger than life here, bedecked in incredible costumes and make up. Though Reid is unmistakably the star, Winfrey, Witherspoon and Kaling are excellent as the bizarre team, introducing some comic relief to what is a fairly heavy and emotional film. The various Mrs are on a mission to help Meg and Charles Wallace find their father across the galaxy, and have all sorts of tricks up their magical sleeves to help.
There are some really fantastic scenes in the film, with some proper technical wizardry – it’s incredibly colourful throughout, with a particularly memorable sequence taking place on a crowded beach. It’s sheer breadth of quotations – throughout the film there are references to James Baldwin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Shakespeare, Rumi and Outkast – opens up this film for everyone, as does the diversity of its cast and the proud, strong young girl who leads it.
There are some Black Mirror meets Disney Channel scenes that are excellently creepy, followed up with an existential battle that carries a really profound message.
After an emotional and profound beginning, the film wavers a little in the middle third; there’s a lot of emphasis on the (admittedly eye-catching) CGI work, not much smooth narrative and a jarring amount of fantasy elements thrown in without much explanation. But it does get better – much better – once Meg arrives on the evil world Camazotz. There are some Black Mirror meets Disney Channel scenes that are excellently creepy, followed up with an existential battle that carries a really profound message.
There are some stumbles and missteps along the way, but this is made up for by the ending of the film and its powerful message, which is so touching, heart-warming and important. Reid conveys Meg’s toughness, insecurity, defiance and growth with exquisite emotion, and will undoubtedly become a household name. Take your children to this film and watch them be inspired, enlightened, emboldened and entertained; open your mind and you might be too.
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