by H. Thomas
***** 5 Stars
‘Cinderella is a beautiful adaptation of a traditional fairy-tale, with elements of the familiar Disney magic combined with the beauty of the original Grimm story creating a world that is stunning to children and adults alike.’
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Lily James, Richard Madden, Cate Blanchett & Helena Bonham Carter
Taking inspiration from both the traditional Brothers Grimm fairytale and the 1950 Disney original, this live-action adaptation of Cinderella follows the story of Ella (Lily James), a young girl living in a modest, but happy home, taught by her much-loved parents to “have courage, and be kind.” However, Ella suffers two tragedies – first, the death of her mother when she is still a child, and later, the loss of her father also. She is left to live with her stepmother (Cate Blanchett), and her two stepsisters. They slowly shift their treatment of her from a sister to a servant, changing Ella’s name to Cinderella and leaving her feeling alone and worthless in her own home – that is, until, in an attempt to run away, she meets a man hunting in the woods. Unbeknownst to her, this man (Richard Madden) is the Prince of her kingdom, and, while both conceal their true identities for fear of different treatment, they fall in love at first sight. The Prince, who introduced himself to Cinderella as Kit, is being forced into an advantageous marriage by the King and Grand Duke. He decides he shall meet his bride at an extravagant ball, on one condition; the ball is for the people, and everyone in the kingdom shall attend.
Cinderella is thrilled that she may see Kit again, and even retrieves her mother’s ballgown in order to attend. However, her stepmother and stepsisters destroy both her dress and her hopes, leaving her alone in the garden, where she meets what appears to be a homeless elderly lady. Through an act of kindness, the lady reveals herself to be Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), and assists her in creating a coach and staff to transport her to the ball, as well as an extravagant new dress as well as beautiful glass slippers. The Fairy Godmother informs her to return by midnight, before the spell wears off. Cinderella arrives to the ball and is recognised by nobody except Kit, and they dance all night – until the clock chimes at midnight and Cinderella runs from the castle, leaving a glass slipper behind in her haste. The Prince who has now become the King following his father’s death, desperate to find her again, searches the kingdom for the girl who the shoe fits, and despite her stepmother’s attempts to hide her, Cinderella is found, and her and the King marry, becoming the kindest and fairest rulers the kingdom has ever known.
This film follows the traditional story of Cinderella in a beautiful manner, carrying an underlying meaning with her mantra of “have courage and be kind,” depicting a moral of the story which tells the audience that kindness and courage can make so many of your dreams come true, in a true fairy-tale fashion. James’ performance as Cinderella portrays her unfailing kindness perfectly, even when she is being treated awfully by her stepmother and stepsisters. Blanchett’s portrayal of the stepmother as a grieving, extravagant woman, who would go to terrible lengths to put her daughters in front of anyone else, carries on the elements of traditional Disney Villains which are well-loved by fans, while also bringing humanity and motive to her character. The scene in which Cinderella’s coach and dress are transformed is truly magical and would make Walt Disney himself proud, as the original 1950 scene of transformation was his favourite piece of animation created in his studios, and, while the Fairy Godmother bears a stark difference to Carter’s usual, villainous roles, she creates a unique, slightly odd character who can only be represented through her fantastic acting.
Overall, Cinderella is a beautiful adaptation of a traditional fairy-tale, with elements of the familiar Disney magic combined with the beauty of the original Grimm story creating a world that is stunning to children and adults alike.
Cinderella is currently available on Disney Plus and was rated U by the BBFC.