It’s about time, Pixar.
I’ve been a devotee of the animation studio since I was a wee tot. Well, five. That’s how old I was when Toy Story was released. I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed all of their features. Recently, however, I was getting pretty antsy for a change. I had seen movies about lost fish, elderly widowers, neglected playthings. Where was the light? With these films, I had to climb through an initial dose of depression to reach a rewarding end. That’s why I am so grateful for Brave.
From the moment Merida (Kelly MacDonald) appears on screen, it’s clear that viewers are in for something different. The story begins with a scene of the ginger-haired princess as a young child. She’s playful and loving, fiery and enthusiastic. Those traits carry on to her adolescence when we meet her again; they are simply mired by a heaping helping of teen princess angst.
With Merida getting closer to the age of betrothal, she begins to receive more and more unwanted guidance from her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). The constant instructions of etiquette are, like, a major bummer for Merida, who lives for the rare days when she can shirk her ladylike expectations, shoot some arrows in the woods, and ride off on her trusty steed. After an especially rough dispute with her mother, Merida takes off on one of these adventures. Through a twist of fate, she encounters a witch whose spell only makes Elinor more of a bear to deal with. It’s up to Merida to mend their bond and choose a path for her future.
I should be clear: Brave is not entirely devoid of Pixar’s trademark emotional manipulation. The relationship between Merida and Elinor is especially affecting. Their simultaneous love and contempt for each other is archetypical of mothers and daughters in most any era. Themes of independence, fate, and family are all accessible and heartwarming.
In terms of aesthetics, all I can say is “Wow.” The film is simply gorgeous. From sprawling forests to craggy castles, Brave envelopes viewers in a marvelous, mystical landscape. (Real talk: Some shots were so beautiful I felt like crying.) Other details like water, textiles, and Merida’s sure-to-be-legendary curls are also stunning. By now, it’s obvious the animators and production team are at home with their responsibilities. Though their efforts were no doubt painstaking, they translate effortlessly to the screen. Combined with emotive original songs, talented voice actors, and solid writing, Brave is worth a journey to the cinema.