Cinderella (2015) Directed by Kenneth Branagh. With Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter and Derek Jacobi.
Kenneth Branagh has aligned himself with classic stories, over the years. From William Shakespeare to Mary Shelley, as a director, he’s proved himself a safe pair of hands for beloved material – so it seems a perfect fit for him to take the reigns of this live-action updating of the classic romantic-fantasy, Cinderella.
The film opens with a burst of colour and magic to set the tone. The role of Cinderella or ‘Ella’ as she’s called when we meet her, falls to the innocent-faced Lily James of Downton Abbey fame. James possesses a child-like aura that allows us to buy into her blind, optimistic romanticism, even as she falls foul of her resentful stepmother, played by Cate Blanchett.
The appearance of Game of Thrones’s Richard Madden as the ‘Prince’ of the piece is at one alarming – especially as he’s being pushed into an arranged wedding. Your brain screams – ‘I CAN’T TAKE ANOTHER RED WEDDING!’. Madden is fine, if not a little wooden, but, given the material he’s playing with, can do little other than what’s required of him, namely, being charming and handsome.
It sounds hollow to criticise Cinderella for being overly twee, but with this new push of live-action realisations by Disney, and especially under Branagh’s guidance, I was expecting some of that to be stripped back, with new life poured into the classic tale. A high-spirited Helena Bonham Carter is fun when she turns up, and Blanchett is a scene-stealer, but beyond the beautiful costume design and opulent majesty of the visuals, it lacks a vital sense of freshness.
There are moments when Cinderella verges on becoming truly enchanting, but it’s also played so safely, that it reduces itself to a bit of a chore, for the adults. But, if you’re watching this with your young daughter, whose loving gaze never flinches from the screen, you can forgive yourself for letting it off the hook. 3/5
I saw that this was on tv the other day and I thought about watching this but I’ve never seen the original so I wasn’t sure
It’s an awkward one to recommend, and often depends on who you see it with. It’s not one I’d choose to watch alone, but with a child or a girlfriend, it’s OK. I’d hoped that they’d be braver with it, but I understand them wanting to tell a classic tale, straight up the way people wanted it serving.
Well I’ve got a friend who is obsessed with Disney (particularly classics) so I always thought I’d see it with her but we’re both 18
Forgive my misunderstanding, but why does being ’18’ stop you?
Very true. I meant I wouldn’t be watching it with a child and she’s not my girlfriend either
Ah, I see.
Good review. I really enjoyed this one. It does play it safe but it still had a lot of wonder and magic in it. Lily James was a marvel as Cinderella.
Lily James was lovely enough, I thought; the whole thing was lovely. It was like a technicolor dream…I only wish it wasn’t played quite so safely.
Lovely review.. and yes, I was one of those who went..uugghh..sounds like a chore..and found myself just really liking it..I guess it brought back the little girl in me..as who doesn’t want to be a princess when you are a 6 yr old little girl?!!! 🙂
Thank you very much, I love the message behind the movie. Kindness and magic are often two things I consider to be hand-in-hand. They’re also two things that aren’t as prominent in everyday life as they ought to be.
Nice work Gareth, agree with pretty much all of what you say. It’s a faithful adaptation, a visual delight, and well performed, but perhaps a bit too safe when push comes to shove.
Good review! I really liked this film; I thought it was sweet and charming. But you’re right that it is pretty safe. “Ever After” is a more creative take on the Cinderella story.