I cry. A lot. Something sad? Tears. Something touching? Tears. Something scary? Tears. Something even remotely pretty or poignant? All the tears. Because of this, I’m starting a new blog series I like to call, “All the Times I Wept,” where I break down all of the times I lost my mind during a movie or TV show. Spoiler alerts, before I continue. Please proceed only if you have seen this film.
It’s currently raining buckets outside, and I’ve spent the day watching the storm from my couch, curled up in a blanket, drinking tea. Now I am currently enjoying a warm meal and for no reason at all decided to put on one of the first of many, many, many many live-action adaptations of classic Disney animated movies, and one of my favorites, Cinderella (Branagh, 2015).
When this movie came out, I could not have cared less. Growing up, Cinderella was never a favorite of mine and, looking back on the movie, only 20% of it actually has to do with Cinderella. The rest is an elaborate Tom and Jerry cartoon of sorts featuring the mice and Lucifer the villanous cat. In contemporary times, the movie has gained criticism from feminists for portraying Cinderella as only a victim whose victories come from either her mice friends or her fairy godmother and who falls in love instantly for a man she met in a single evening.
So while I was intrigued by what director Kenneth Branagh would bring to the table with this film, my expectations remained low. What I saw blew me away. While the movie isn’t perfect, it tugged at my heart-strings in a way I couldn’t describe, and I wept profusely throughout the majority of it. I have seen it upwards of ten times since then, and it still makes me tear up in all the same places.
So without further ado, lessgo.
- When literally ALL THE PARENTS DIE.
In keeping with Disney custom, Branagh and writer Chris Weitz did not shy away from killing literally every parent. Ella’s mother? Dead within the first ten minutes. Ella’s father? Twenty. The Prince’s mother is already dead once we meet him, and even the King, who played a rather large role in the animated version, gets ill and quickly expires!! It makes for some great drama, and it certainly worked on me!
- When this heartbreaking line happens:
“Cinderella. Names have power, like magic spells. And all of a sudden, it seemed to her that her stepmother and step sisters had indeed transformed her into merely a creature of ash and toil.”
– Narrator/Fairy Godmother
To their credit, the filmmakers made the impossible happen: They succeeded in making Cinderella a character that is more relatable and inspiring to girls of a modern age while still remaining true to the source material. She does so much more than cook, clean, and be pretty: She reads, she’s kind to everyone she meets, she has flaws, she grows, she learns, and she meets the Prince long before the ball and develops a bond with him before ever knowing about his status.
Another amazing element that gets me every time is an added factor of insecurity to Cinderella’s character. Once her nickname is adopted by her malicious family, it tears down her confidence and she looks at her reflection in a copper pot. Distorted, she believes herself to be unworthy and unattractive. I feel personally connected to these feelings, as this insecurity follows her through to the end of the film, which we’ll return to later.
- THE DRESS.
Good lord am I obsessed with this dress. It’s glorious, and so much better than I could have ever imagined for Cinderella
even though it technically should be silver, as that’s what the animators originally designed. I don’t know why all subsequent versions of Cinderella depict her ball gown as blue, but I digress. And the animation makes this moment of transformation just as magical as it was in 1950.
- When she leaves for and arrives at the ball
Okay…yes, feminism, but personally, it’s my dream to have that fairy tale ball moment. This entire sequence was expertly done, and Lily James looked so beautiful.
- The dance.
ROBB STARK FROM Game of Thrones AND LADY ROSE FROM Downton Abbey ARE DANCING. IT’S MY NERDOM UNITING.
And speaking of which…
- All of Lily James and Richard Madden’s scenes together.
From their meet-cute in the woods to their reunion at the ball, Kit’s initial infatuation with Ella to his opening up her and showing her his secret garden, it was such a pure romance. I adore them.
And let’s not forget the most important scene in the entire film, and the moment that leaves me a blithering moron…
- This scene.
The score by Patrick Doyle beneath this scene is crushingly beautiful, and underscores such an important moment with a beautiful message. Here we return to the added element to this version of Cinderella that I referenced earlier; Ella’s insecurities.
“Would who she was really be enough? There was no magic to help her this time. This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take—to be seen as we truly are.”
– Narrator/Fairy Godmother
Here, Ella is nothing more than a girl in love with a boy. She has nothing to offer him but her love, and he accepts that wholeheartedly. I find it poignant and touching.
- The lyrics to the credits song, “Strong.”
“In a perfect storybook the world is brave and good
A hero takes your hand, a sweet love will follow
But life’s a different game, the sorrow and the pain
Only you can change your world tomorrow
Let your smile light up the sky
Keep your spirit soaring high
Trust in your heart and your soul shines forever and ever
Hold fast to kindness, your light shines forever and ever
I believe in you and in me
We are strong
When once upon a time in stories and in rhyme
A moment you can shine and wear your own crown
Be the one that rescues you
Through the clouds you’ll see the blue.”
-Sonna Rele, “Strong”
I have talked about this song before, but its message is just as pertinent two years later as it was upon its release. This song encompasses the entire message that this new version of Cinderella was trying to convey: You are the one who rescues you, and your life will not play out like fairy tales do. It is up to you to use your kind heart and strength to make your ending a happy one.
- The overall message of courage and kindness.
Once again, I have talked about this before, but I have tried to adopt the film’s constant moral of “Have courage and be kind” into my life in every respect. If everyone was like that, the world would be a much more accepting, gentle place.
This film’s production even started the Cinderella Words of Kindness Project, where you can share words of kindness via social media. It was an important campaign, and I encourage you to visit the site and see what other Cinderella fans contributed.
And that’s all. …yes, I know. That’s pretty much the entire film, but hey, it’s nostalgic, and beautiful, and really hit home for me.
Rest assured, folks, I will be bringing eight boxes of tissues to this year’s Disney live action remake, Beauty and the Beast, which remains my favorite Disney animated movie! I will be a hot mess, and you can most definitely expect another one of these blogs come March!
Cover photo by author. All gifs from giphy.