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(Film Review) 'Encanto' (2021)

Encanto has all the things we have come to love about Disney films; great characters, heartfelt music and a story with great morals. But in this film, we finally find what so many have called for; diversity and a strong female led story. Not just through our protagonist, but through the many supporting female characters throughout the film.

Encanto is full of colour, set in a culturally diverse backdrop that sparks joy in the viewer. The music is cheerful and catchy, but the lyrics are deep and so full of wisdom and insight. All that anybody really wants is to be seen and to feel valued.

The story begins with the familiar character desire of just wanting to fit in. This is of course something we can all relate to. But this film is so much more profound than this simple sentiment. One of the early allegories of this film is that of feeling like a failure when everyone around you seems to be perfect. You begin to question if you will ever be the person you aspire to be. Everyone else seems to be successful, admired and special.

But even these people have a silent struggle and the truth is, that we all feel like this, even if the world sees us differently. The expectation that strong people do not feel vulnerable or weak. The expectation that strong people need to be perpetually strong and that strong people do not need support and love. These challenges are so succinctly explored through the character of Luisa; a physically strong woman who feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. She is the symbolic mother in all of us, wanting to provide for everyone and never wanting to let a single individual down or being denied a request for help.

We see brief nods to those who are neuro-diverse with Bruno, who quite obviously suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and feels shunned due to his gift of showing the world things the way they really are. His inability to paint a rosy picture or filter his communication with others, sees him isolated and driven away from people for no other reason than they simply do not know how to deal with his prophecies. This also happens to be a trait of those who have Asperger’s and encapsulates the difficulties those with the syndrome, have when dealing with neurotypical people.

Being able to see what others cannot and being unable to get through to them is eloquently articulated through our protagonist; Mirabel. It is through her eyes that we explore what it means to be human, to feel like a failure and be anything other than ordinary. It is through Mirabel’s courage to stand up and fight for what you believe in when others doubt you, that the audience is taken on a journey of purpose, fulfilment and ultimately shows us that it is love that binds us as human beings.

It is also through Mirabel, that we as adults, can clearly see the struggles of millennials fighting to change the mindset of their elders. Climate action and reconciliation with the worlds indigenous peoples and people of colour is such an important part of who they are. They are taught to fight passionately for what they believe in and to make the world a better place. Yet the elders of our society mock them for doing just that. Throughout the story, the cracks are showing, but Mirabel appears to be the only one who can see them and her elders simply will not see it and dismiss her desire to address the issue before it is all too late.

When we take on too much, our best intentions fall apart and this is never truer than in the case of Abuela. Everything she does is for the good of her family and her community, but in her unwillingness to see what the seemingly most powerless of her family; Mirabel, can contribute, she almost loses everything she has worked so hard to protect.

Perfection does not exist and it should not be expected of those around us. When we are not authentic to ourselves and try to be what everyone expects us to be, the very foundation of our soul becomes unstable and it is not just us who will suffer, it is everyone we are connected to. When the community stands together, both the ordinary and the superficially extraordinary, the people create magic; stronger and more powerful than ever before. United we can achieve amazing things and a brighter future for everyone.

You can stream Encanto now on Disney+

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