Brave

There has been a lot of debate amongst the film community lately over Disney Pixar’s latest film venture. A film where a princess is not in love with a boy? Shock horror! Growing up with a parade of princesses all as pathetic as each other is tough for a girl’s psyche. Kids going to the cinema today should be proud to see a girl who can kick some serious arse on screen. Brave shows us that there are somethings more important in life than boys (if you can imagine it). We should focus on our relationships with all our loved ones, but most importantly, the relationship we have with ourselves and our own journey in life. Just try telling that to Aladdin‘s Princess Jasmine…

So, PreBEAR yourself for a lot of Ursidae action – in ancient Scotland, Merida (Macdonald) the daughter of Queen Elinor (Thompson) and King Fergus (Connolly) has grown up to become an independent woman and a formidable archer. More interested in running free in the wilds of Scotland than paying attention to her mother’s princess lessons, Merida is devastated to hear that Elinor will be hosting a series of games where according to tradition, suitors will compete for her hand in marriage. Her father however is more interested in finding and killing the evil bear that ate his leg many years ago than standing up for his daughter against Elinor, leaving Merida to take her fate into her own hands. Following the magical will-o’-the-wisps in to the forest, Merida finds an ancient witch (Julie Walters, definitely an ancient witch) who gives her a spell to change her mother, but with dire consequences…

The first thing that is instantly noticeable in Brave is how staggeringly beautiful it is, with Merida free climbing her way up to all of the best scenic viewing points in the kingdom. Whilst other Disney Pixar films have a quirky charm to their animation, the images of wild Scotland are so strong you can almost feel the wind blowing up your kilt. These visuals however come at a bit of a price and it seems that the filmmakers sacrificed a lot of their usual wit and humour for the imagery leaving you with only few choice comic moments provided by Merida’s three younger brothers.

This isn’t too much a problem though as the story at the heart of Brave is actually quite a serious one. As a child, Merida and her mother Elinor had a good relationship, but as Merida grew up this was torn apart with Elinor making Joan Crawford in Mommy Dearest look like Mother Teresa. This is the relationship Brave focuses on choosing to completely ignore the typical girl-meets-boy storyline. All mothers can be beasts sometimes but in Brave it takes a spooky witch to help Merida and Elinor to learn once again how to communicate with each other properly. Perhaps for younger children who haven’t reached an age where you battle constantly with your mother (‘my skirt is SO NOT too short…’) the central story will not touch them in the same way as it does for an older audience. Mother/daughter relationships are complicated, especially when two alpha females like Elinor and Merida go head to head. Princesses are easy to understand and love when you are little. They love boys and pink stuff and will end up happily married. Brave offers a more intricate look into the life of a young woman, with no trace of pink in sight.

Brave manages to conjure up a beautiful world where magic somehow just feels real. It is not set in a distant land that seems far removed from our own, but instead draws on inspiration from Scottish folklore and legends to make it seem believable. Using a chess board and flashbacks in one scene, Brave adds in a fantastic Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones style back story, giving the plot a grounded place to develop from. Yes, it may be a tad slow to get going but not everything has to happen at Buzz Lightyear speed in order to be good. There are however a few things that perplexed, like why do witches always conjure up such big batches of potion in cauldrons just for one tiny drop? Have they never done like Delia Smith and learned to scale down? And also why must they always have irritating talking bird sidekicks?

I think the main problem for Brave is that essentially it is not a young child’s film. It is a far more subdued and mature affair than anything the studios have tried to do before which might confuse audiences slightly, but it has a great message. Be brave…like a bear. Or something like that…

About The Author