Today is my mother’s birthday. I figured it’d be nice to commemorate that occasion with an appropriate review. I’m going to give you a little exposition before we get rolling. We just upgraded our cable package the other week so we could watch “Outlander.” Mom’s a fan of the books and I’ve read the first one and a couple of the spin-offs. As a result, she’s had a few more movie channels to explore and enjoy. One of those channels has been showing Brave fairly frequently so I’ve come home more than once to see her watching it. I remember when we had mother/daughter outing to see this movie in theaters and that’s why I chose to review it. Also, it’s a really great story about a the relationship between a mother and her daughter. So, now that we’ve gotten the exposition out of the way, let’s go to the review.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a young woman who knows exactly where her interests lie. She’s free-spirited, strong-willed, and incredibly gifted with a bow and arrow. What she is not is the stereotypical princess or overly feminine sort, much to the dismay of her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson). Their differences come to a head when it’s announced that Merida is to marry one of the sons of her father’s allies. While Fergus (Billy Connolly) understands his daughter’s frustrations, there is little he can do as her marriage would secure the safety of their home.
Needless to say, things don’t go so well when Merida’s suitors come to compete for her hand. Her actions nearly result in war and certainly result in an argument with her mother. As often happens in these sorts of tales, Merida runs off into the woods and encounters a witch (Julie Walters) who says she can help the impetuous princess with her maternal issues. What she neglected to mention was that the spell Merida purchased would turn her mother into a bear. Hilarity and misunderstandings ensue.
There is a lot to love about this movie. Chief among those things is the relationship between Elinor and Merida. Not only is the mother of this relationship alive throughout the film, but the relationship she and Merida have just feels so real. As a daughter whose relationship with her mother has had its share of rough bits (ah, my teenage years), I can totally empathize with their frustrations. Communication is hard and this movie does a wonderful job of showing how important it is to listen and to clearly state your desires and wishes.
The animation is top-notch. The scenery is breathtaking and Merida’s unruly red curls are fantastic. They had to create new software specifically to animate her hair. Whereas Disney’s Frozen received some criticism for just how similar its two female leads looked (and rightly so, much as I love the movie), Pixar did a great job of creating a family whose genetic ties are believable while not succumbing to the urge to make them look too alike.
While I love the movie as a whole, there’s only one thing that I’m not terribly fond of: Merida’s younger brothers. Triplets, the boys serve as the comic relief in an occasionally heavy story. I agree that’s an element that’s needed, but the switch between tense moments to triplet shenanigans can be occasionally jarring.
This movie is a must-watch with the maternal figures in your life. Be sure to have some tissues handy because you’ll probably need them. I know I do. There’s this beautiful flashback scene with Elinor and a young Merida (Peigi Barker) where the former is singing a lullaby to the latter. Then, there’s harmonizing and my eyes start to leak. You’ve been warned.
My final thoughts for this are going to be brief. I love this movie. I want more heroines like Merida who are fun and flawed. She’s stubborn and impulsive, traits that get her into trouble, but I love the fire in her and the passion to carve out the life that’s best for her. This movie, while it has gotten a lot of love, deserves more for its subversion of some of the common tropes of animated princess films. I’m not going to go into the merchandising shenanigans that occurred when marketing executives forgot just how much Merida hated to be all dolled up and decided to make a prettier, sexier Merida design and doll. It’s like they didn’t watch the movie for which they were designing toys.
Hopefully, we’ll get to see more Meridas in the future. Girls need all of the positive role models they can get and boys need to see that there are more kinds of females out there than other forms of media would have them believe. For those who fit neither or both of those molds, it’s just awesome to see fantastic, three-dimensional characters to emulate and admire. Merida and Elinor fit that bill wonderfully.