Kenneth Branagh’s live action adaptation of the Disney classic is a lovingly old-fashioned fantasy film that is filled with magic, romance, awe and wonder.
It doesn’t reinterpret the source material and reimagine the character into something that she isn’t. Cinderella is not a warrior princess with a dark past. She is the personification of kindness and gentle-spiritedness. In a world full of unjustified Hollywood reboots, remakes and sequels, I’m glad to report that these filmmakers have wisely chosen to stay faithful to the source material and expand on this enchanting universe that will sweep many a young girl off her feet.
While strictly (and unashamedly) aimed at a young female demographic, it doesn’t pander to this audience. The thoughtfully penned script from Chris Weitz does a fabulous job at making the heightened world hugely believable for the adults to buy into. Downtrodden Ella’s cycle of misfortune isn’t rushed and the actors are convincing and devoted to bringing this fiction life and vitality.
In fact, the most impressive feature of Branagh’s new vision may just be how he and his team have treated the material with such obvious reverence and respect. There’s an authenticity to this offering. Stars Lily James ('Downton Abbey') and Richard Madden ('Game Of Thrones') are hugely committed and believable in their roles, which expand the couple’s idyllic romance beyond just their one chance meeting as the original tale tells. Their palpable chemistry exudes from the screen with ease.
Accompanying these two gorgeous lovebirds is the ever magnificent Cate Blanchett who brings her Academy Award-winning gravitas to her role as the evil stepmother. Devouring every second of screen time flashed her way, the acting dynamo gives depth and cause for her demeanour. There’s a gradual dark progression to her character that is layered with understanding and passion. Too often the character is overplayed and overly one-dimensional. We should know by now that Blanchett wouldn’t have a bar of that.
While the script, direction and acting are all finely conceived, the film’s most valuable players are certainly production designer Dante Ferretti and costume designer Sandy Powell. Tasked with bringing this storybook to life, the film is lavishly adorned with spectacular sets and costumes, each more stunning and intricately beautiful than the next. When Cinderella arrives fashionably late to the Prince’s ball she literally stops time. Every eye is besotted by her elegance and magnificence. Nobody was acting on set that day. Every single reaction was 100 percent genuine.
Even the most ardent cynic would have to be fairly cold-hearted to dismiss this sweet little dream of a film aside. It’s very specific and direct in the delivery of its message and themes, and some may not appreciate how highly these filmmakers value traditional values. The story isn’t inventively reinterpreting or analysing gender roles or social status. The archetypes are on full display. But why can’t we celebrate female characters who embrace kindness and courage? Why can’t we praise male characters who exhibit nobility and chivalry?
'Cinderella' certainly cast a spell on this reviewer and the audience I was in attendance with. While I still have no idea why that beautiful glass slipper remains after midnight, despite the disappearance of everything else, this is a sweet gem of a film that faithfully breaths new magic into an old classic.4/5'Cinderella' is in cinemas now.This review was first published on This Is Film.