3 Stars — Wholesome
One of the central questions of human existence is whether each of us has a specific destiny. Whether destiny is chosen by the Fates or by God, the sense that much of our lives is beyond our control causes many to have the feeling that they are pawns in someone else’s game.
Pointing to the families in which they were born, the historical moment or star under which they were born, and even the providential opportunities they did or did not have, they argue that they didn’t have a choice. But inherent within such thoughts is the indomitable human longing for the freedom to choose who we are and what we do. Made personal in a likable heroine’s life and told with humor and charm, the theme of fate and freedom is created by Disney and Pixar in the animated film Brave.
Directed and written by the gifted trio of Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell, the animation matches the quality of the tale as we experience the coming of age of a fiery young Scottish princess who does not want to fulfill her fate. Having been groomed by her mother to be a gracious queen, Merida (voice by Kelly Macdonald) wants instead to follow more in her father’s path as an impetuous huntsman. Given a bow as a child by her father, King Fergus (Billy Connoly), Merida becomes an expert archer. But when her mother forces her into an unwanted betrothal with one of three sons of their allies, she rebels and seeks escape.
Led by the Will O’ the Wisps, mystical lights that offer the possibility of changing your fate if you are led by their visual whispers, Merida meets a witch who offers her a spell to change her mother’s will. But as in all such tales, the spell grants her wish but with a twist that is far worse than the fate Merida was fleeing. We won’t spoil how that occurs but the story works well both in movement and moral message.
The humor in the tale includes both Scottish culture and familial settings. Merida’s young triplet brothers serve this well as they work together to get extra desserts and assist their sister in her adventure. The idiosyncratic leaders of the clans, as well as their firstborn sons, are perfect examples of describing how it feels when you have no choice.
Courage is necessary to live a life in which we take responsibility for our choices. This bravery may not always be as obvious as it is in an animated tale, but it is nevertheless required of all of us. When courage is combined with honoring family and the bonds we have with each other even in the most difficult of moments, then this animated tale becomes a helpful lesson for both children and adults.
» Do you experience life as being under the control of forces outside your control or as a result of your choices? Why do you answer as you do?
» Parental expectations can cause difficulty when the child does not share the parent’s dreams. What do you think a parent should do when a child doesn’t want to follow the parent’s dream?
» The increased awareness of both the queen and princess, mother and daughter, is what brought healing to their struggle. How do you increase your awareness in your relationships to bring about healing?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.