The fairy tale of Cinderella has been told many times on film, the most famous being Disney’s 1950 animated classic. The new Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James and Cate Blanchet is a stunning tribute to the classic.
Everybody knows the story and Branagh sticks closely to the traditional telling of the tale, mice as horses and pumpkins as carriages and all. What is truly delightful about this telling is that it feels like a morality play without the preachy part. James’s performance as Ella is so sincere that the sweetness of her character does not come off as saccharine.
To say the film is visually striking is an understatement. It’s dazzling. The colors pop out at you and everything seems to sparkle. There is the scene when Ella is dancing with the prince and the camera is looking down from above. A space has been carved out on the dance floor for them but its boundary is a wall of color from all the ladies’ dresses. Dante Ferretti’s (Hugo, The Aviator) production design and Sandy Powell’s (Hugo, The Young Victoria) costume designs are both Oscar worthy. The famed glass slippers were actually made of Swarovski crystal and thousands of crystals adorned Ella’s ball gown and the fairy godmother’s dress.
Besides being a wonderful example of what it means to truly forgive, the film shows how much influence parents have in their children’s life. There were four parents in the film (five if you count the fairy godmother played with lots of humor by Helena Bonham Carter). Ella’s mother (Haley Atwell) and father (Ben Chaplin) showed young Ella much love. When Ella’s mother was dying she entrusted a secret to Ella that she said would see her through all the trials life could offer: have courage and be kind. Ella lived by this her whole life. Her father remarried for Ella’s sake. The King (Derek Jacobi) was a good father to the Prince (Richard Madden). He loved his son and desired the Prince’s happiness above the conventions that said royalty needed to marry royalty. After meeting Ella at the ball, the King made sure that the Prince persevered in his search for the woman he loved via the lost glass slipper. The fourth parent is Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett), the stepmother. She married Ella’s father, not for love, but for financial security. Her two daughters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera) were silly girls, dimwitted and concerned only for themselves, indulged by their mother who failed to model any sort of kindness.
I think parenting must be the hardest job ever and sometimes cause great suffering but it can also be the most rewarding. I’m not a parent but I am an eldest child and if I feel pride and love seeing the men and women my younger siblings have become, I can only imagine how my parents feel. Parents are the most significant influence in the lives of their children (whether the children acknowledge that or not). It’s so important in today’s culture for parents to model the good advice they give, like Ella’s parents did for her. For Christian parents, the imperative is even more pressing. If you want your kids to grow up to be faithful followers of Jesus, make sure you show them how to the best of your ability. The rest you leave to God.