The greatest risk any of us take is to be seen as we truly are
The romantic classic, Cinderella, is a relatable fairytale, enduring the decades to be all the more loved by audiences of today.A spectacle with a true heart, yet in truth, Cinderella was a bit conflicting. On one hand, Kenneth Branagh's direction, the beauty of the cinematography, the grace of the effects, and the performances given were truly fantastic. Lily James as Ella was the personification of kindness and understanding, and yet she was able to have courage and stick up for herself when times got tough. The animation was perfectly in line with Disney’s standard for quality, and the bright and colourful cinematography paid real tribute to the idyllic land of the imagination. On the other hand, as one of the “Big 6” Hollywood studios, Disney, as can be imagined, runs a tight ship.So Cinderella’s storyline sticks to the classic, militantly so. My hopes going into the viewing were quickly altered upon the first few scenes. Whilst the basis of the story still existed, “Have courage and be kind” being the backbone statement of the tale and Ella’s personal raison d’etre, it felt empty, and possibly devoid of necessary emotion. I would have loved to have felt Ella’s frustration at her stepmother. Though I saw Ella’s mixed feelings towards Cate Blanchett’s Lady Tremaine, I cannot say I was emotionally compelled. Nor was Lady Tremaine’s very brief exposition of her own life compelling. I must stress, however, both actresses performed beautifully.
A huge missing element was that of the musical numbers. Cinderella, the classic Disney animated version, was ripe with songs, describing Cinderella’s desires, wishes, and unfailing optimism. It gave us a tone for the film and an emotional outlet for Cinderella herself. Lily James actually performs “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes”, but only for the end credits. Adding the singing and performance to the flawless visuals could only have served the characters’ emotional dimensions, and consequently, the story itself.
That being said, there was still a good deal of one-liners, aimed at a younger crowd, explaining a bit of morality. Ella, at one point addressing her mice friends, tells them “We ladies must help one another out.” And she makes a good point for feminism. Women really should empower each other to be their best. Cutting one another other down, gender or sex aside, never helps a situation. And upon her first encounter with the Prince, she tells him of her family, “They treat me as well as they’re able.” This, I applaud. Ella has the patience and grace to understand that people can be cruel, but being cruel back isn’t bravery. It’s taking the easy way out. The world needs more understanding instead of split-second reactions. Afterall, we create our own realities, and our reactions make up a great deal of our perception.
Ella has the patience and grace to understand that people can be cruel, but being cruel back isn’t bravery. It’s taking the easy way out.
The interaction between Ella and Kit at the ball was refreshingly modern. A dash of awkwardness always makes a scenario more realistic and therefore more plausible, and forgetting the word “dance” made Richard Madden’s prince all the more loveable. However, this “dance” and the whole film was rather chaste. Watching a romance blossom is half the fun when seeing a love story unfold, and waiting for the kiss felt like they were stalling and preventing the relationship from progressing. Not to worry, parents, the children are safe from all romantic displays of affection here. Perhaps that is part of the charm and uniqueness of Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella.
Staying with Prince Kit for a moment, his relationship with his father the king was heartwarming. The brokenness of families is a theme within this version of Cinderella, and the beauty of love and the safety and assurance it provides is obvious and not to be taken for granted. It allows both main characters to believe in love as a source of goodness and prepares them, no matter their levels of innocence, for a future where maintaining integrity is possible by way of love.
Despite Cinderella’s controlled storytelling, it sends a message of proliferating kindness in a modern age where kindness is sometimes seen as a weakness. As Ella’s mother says, kindness has power and magic in it, and it’s a positive message to send to a world fraught with danger and peril and in desperate need of hope. Not only does kindness reign, but strength of character triumphs, too. Towards the end of the film, Helena Bonham-Carter’s fairy godmother reiterates this by saying "This is the greatest risk any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are.”
And the moral of the story? If goodness lies at the core of the human heart, then there is no risk. Believe in magic... and if you can’t believe in magic, at least believe in what magic kindness can perform.
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