Encanto movie review: Disney’s animated offering shows there’s a place for everyone in the family – Firstpost


Disney film Encanto prioritises the ideas of togetherness and family bonding with spell-binding detailing.

What is it like to be born in a family of super successful and intelligent people and to constantly feel that you can’t match up? Demanding and tough, yes. I assume the alienation and feeling of inferiority would lead to countless hours of therapy. Unfortunately, it’s a relatable feeling for many children.

Encanto, Disney’s latest offering, delves into precisely this premise. Mirabel Madrigal (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) is a young, Colombian teenager, who is born in a family where everyone is gifted with magical powers- her mother’s cooking can heal injuries and diseases; her sister Luisa is super strong; another sister, Isabela, can make flowers bloom; an aunt controls the weather; a cousin can understand animals. Everyone, that is, except Mirabel herself.

There’s an origin story: when Mirabel’s Abuela (grandmother) escaped political violence in her home and took shelter with her three infants in this small town, she was gifted with the “miracle”. We’re not told much of how and why this happened or what makes the miracle work, but essentially, the family’s magical powers come from this miracle, symbolised by a candle that has to keep burning for the magic to work.

However, by the time Mirabel is in her teens and dealing with the magic’s rejection of her, there are literal and figurative cracks appearing in the beautiful, magical home where they all live. The magical powers of the family seem to be withering. The burden of the magic is affecting every member of the family- Uncle Bruno ran away years ago, Luisa doesn’t want to show that she needs joy and relaxation as well as strength and power, Isabela is tired of being perfect all the time. It is left to Mirabel to save the family and bring her loved ones together.

In an attempt to solve this puzzle of why the magic seems to be leaving them, Mirabel goes on a quest. Here, she finds herself, her values, and an understanding of what makes the world work. It is a valuable lesson for both Mirabel and the audience to learn.

Through her attempts at belonging and finding her place in the world and in her home, Mirabel is relatable: her anxieties are the same as the ones we went through as teenagers and probably even as adults.

The family’s understanding of each other is also an important lesson to witness: it shows, yet again, that individual members of the family, too, need time to grow, flourish, and even change. It shows that what one might value and envy might be seen as a burden to someone else.

Isabela, for example, is shown to have a perfect life, without even a single bad hair day, but we slowly learn that this perfection is a heavyweight on Isabela’s shoulders. Ideas of togetherness and family bonding are prioritised in the story. In fact, the way the story is set up and also looking at the directors’ previous works (Jared Bush and Byron Howard last worked on Zootopia), it is not far-fetched to believe that the movie is commenting on the global refugee crisis: the difficulty of losing your home and having to set it up all over again. How does that influence your belief and your thinking? How is that trauma something that affects not just one individual but generations of people within a family?

The movie has beautiful colours and animation with spell-binding detailing: every twitch of the eye contributes to a scene and to a plot point. Your eyes don’t move away for a second from the gloriousness of it all. The songs, though, don’t leave an impact- even though they’re written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The first song, especially, which introduces the family in a lengthy exposition, doesn’t help the film. We anyway meet the characters later and find out their many gifts. The songs pop up randomly during the movie and often repeat similar tropes and ideas. However, while the story takes some time to set up, it captivates you with its imagery and beauty.

Ultimately, what really works for the movie is the exploration of Mirabel’s own position in the family and her relationship with her family members. The nuance that the film brings to sibling relationships and familial expectations is insightful and moving. It reminds you that ultimately, there’s always a place for everyone in the family. A message that we, no doubt, need to hear often.

Rating: 3.5

Encanto released in theatres worldwide. The film will arrive on the streaming service Disney+ on 24 December, 2021.

Shreemayee Das is a writer and a stand-up comedian. She writes mostly on cinema and culture. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @weepli.

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