I have to admit, as much as I love a complicated foreign thriller, or arthouse cinema, even fond of a little bit of silent cinema, you can’t beat Pixar. Pixar has been with me growing up, I’m part of the CGI generation, I remember going to see Toy Story at the cinema and my tiny 8 year old mind was blown. I love the simplicity and beauty at the heart of (nearly) all Pixar films. The simple messages, the moral battles, the embrace of seeing the world through young eyes.
Brave is one of the most recent team ups between Pixar and Disney, set in medieval Scotland, based around an all too familiar conflict which has probably existed since the dawn of time; the tumultuous relationship between mother and daughter. In a departure from traditional Disney-esque trajectories, princess meets prince, princess is taken away from prince, prince saves princess, prince marries princess, happily ever after, we meet Merida, in the midst of growing up, coming out of the other side of puberty. She’s told by her mother that she must, as tradition dictates, marry into another clan and he suitor will be selected imminently. Merida, showing every sign of a rebellious young girl is more interested in riding her horse, climbing up cliff faces and hunting with her beloved bow and arrow given to her by her father, beautifully voiced by comedy legend, Billy Connelly. Merida is pressurised into selecting a husband (which she shows absolutely no interest in doing) she consults a witch, who casts a spell on her mother, and turns her into a bear; the twist being, that if the two cannot mend their relationship, her mother will forever remain a bear.
At the heart of this film is the mother-daughter relationship. As a girl who has had many blazing rows with my mother from what I would like to wear to dealing with the death of my grandmother, I can entirely relate to Merida in that every argument, whether it be about skirts or death, is amplified when it’s with your mother. Pixar doesn’t shy away from showing an ugly argument in which Merida slashes a tapestry her mother has made of their family, and in return her mother burns her bow and arrow. Both ignoring each other’s views, both adamant they are right.
The film tracks the rebuilding of Merida’s relationship with her mother, finally coming to compromise on both their actions, and it does so beautifully, particularly when Merida aggressively protects her mother from a mob who believing her to be a real bear, try to kill her. What Brave leaves you feeling is all warm and fuzzy inside, making me think about my own relationship with my mother. It’s a positive film, with good strong female role models. Merida is very open and honest about her distaste of tradition, whilst her mother is a strong character of leadership, her father is comedic, ineffectual and indecisive. We know who wears the trousers in this family.
According to some research I did after watching Brave, the character of Merida was originally designed to look more boyish, not as pretty and a bit rough round the edges. Disney, apparently, changed this to make her more rounded, more pretty, more, well, Disney. This began a petition which was signed no less by one of the female directors of Brave to revert to the original Merida. What surprises me, is that even if Merida was ‘original’ rather than ‘Disney’, it has no impact of the story or moral of the tale. Regardless of her image, Merida is at the heart of an issue which affects every single woman on this planet, whether she is fat or thin, black or white, gay or straight, disabled or able bodied; and will continue to affect women for eternity, the strongest bond between humans, the relationship with our mothers.
Do not be mistaken, I might be bleating on about feminism and female issues, but this is a film for everyone. My boyfriend enjoyed it, mostly because of the humour and the fighting scenes (just chuck a fight scene into any movie and I think he’d be impressed), but I think Brave is an incredible film, almost the sister part to Finding Nemo (equally important for it’s father-son relationship). It’s visually beautiful, and I think the story, although it could have been longer, was uncomplicated and a joy to watch. I particularly liked the attitude of Merida, and I wish they had expanded on the relationship between her and her father, but nethertheless, I think if I will be showing my daughter Disney films, this one will be at the top of the list.
- Brave (2012) (cinemascent.wordpress.com)
- People Are Very Angry That Disney Redesigned Merida From “Brave” To Be Sexier (buzzfeed.com)