Film Grade: B+
Pixar films have seldom sold audiences short — from Finding Nemo to Toy Story, Pixar has never failed to bring wholesome laughs with surprisingly deep messages, often stressing the importance of family. While Brave introduces Pixar’s first heroine and first period setting, it most certainly stays to true to those traits.
Brave is set in medieval Scotland, slightly past the Braveheart days (although blue war paint still runs rampant), but long enough ago when clans still came together to arrange marriages.
Which our heroine, Medira, beset with the wildest red hair in film history, won’t have. According to her father King Fergus, she “wants to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset” — which Merida’s mother, Eleanor, won’t have either.
To have mommy issues is no new subject in princess tales, but for a change, it’s because the princess doesn’t want to get married, when mother does. Because neither mother nor daughter can listen, Merida decides to use a witch’s spell to “change her mother … to change her fate”.
Well, the spell did change her. Into a bear. The only way to change her mother back would be to “mend the broken bonds caused by pride”, which didn’t mean re-stitching the family’s tapestry, as Merida thought. To undo the spell, Merida and Eleanor have to work together to transform themselves.
Measuring this film to Pixar's past list, Brave isn't exactly an A+. While it isn’t Pixar’s best, the film still has so many good qualities that make it worth seeing. (First of all, it's Pixar. Nuff' said.)
Second, the animation is an aesthetic work of art. Merida’s hair alone is a masterpiece, as the animators created two programs in order to achieve the wild look that is just as independent and strong as she is. Also, the film score and Scottish accents never got old.
Third, the film is refreshing. Not only does Merida kick away the typical princess gender role, she does so without rejecting her femininity. She never discards her role as a woman, but she does know she’s not fit to marry because she’s not ready. That’s a mature thing to realize. In this way, the film shifts the focus away from the distressing-damsel princesses to the film's theme of family importance.
The basic conflict in the film — Eleanor and Merida’s relationship — is typical. A loving mother wants to prepare her daughter for the responsibilities of the role she will have as a grown woman, teenage daughter wants her independence and freedom. Still, deep at the core of those differences, there is unconditional love. The love between a mother and daughter truly transcends all hurts, if we choose to let it go.
Which is the lesson learned in Brave. Family and forgiveness are essential, and the two often go hand in hand— which means we are constantly called to put aside our pride. The family is a messy and imperfect structure. Like the rambunctious clans in the film, we might fight a lot and we might disagree. But the bottom line is that good families love each other, and that is a precious gift.
The film’s trailer especially talks about “changing our fate” and how it is a brave thing to do. We learn in the film that changing our fate begins by changing ourselves. When we gain perspective for ourselves, when we allow ourselves to be transformed, we change our fate, and in turn, change those around us. To lay down arms, to listen, to gulp back pride, to lovingly forgive — that’s brave. And this film is a brave reminder.