I’ve just had the pleasure of watching the romantic fantasy live-action film, Cinderella.
Ella lives with her wealthy parents on a beautiful estate in a peaceful kingdom. From a young age, she is taught by her mother to believe in the existence of magic, allowing her to befriend many animals on the estate, particularly the mice. Everything is perfect until her mother contracts an illness and dies. On her deathbed, she asks Ella to make her a promise that she will always have courage and show kindness to others. Years later, her father marries Lady Tremaine, the widow of an old acquaintance, who has two daughters: Drisella and Anastasia. Ella welcomes her stepfamily, despite the stepsisters’ unpleasant attitudes and her need to protect her mouse friends from her stepmother’s cat, Lucifer.
Soon after, Ella’s father goes abroad on business, promising his stepdaughters gifts of luxury. Ella, his own actual daughter, merely asks for the first branch to brush against his shoulder on the way. While he is gone, Lady Tremaine begins to gradually reveal her true cold, cruel and jealous nature, persuading Ella to sleep in the attic and let Drisella and Anastasia have her room. Soon they receive word that Ella’s father has fallen ill and died. Desperate for money, Lady Tremaine dismisses the servants and forces Ella to do all their work; later she refuses to let Ella eat with the family. One cold evening, Ella sleeps by the fireplace for warmth. The next day, she rises with her face covered in cinders. Her stepsisters consequently mock her as “Cinderella”—a taunt in which Lady Tremaine also joins.
Crushed by her stepfamily’s cruelty, Ella goes for a ride into the woods, where she encounters a hunting party in pursuit of a stag. She meets one of the hunters, who claims to be an apprentice named Kit who lives in the palace. Unknown to her, he is actually the only son of the land’s dying king. Despite never learning her name, Kit (a nickname given to him by his father) is enchanted by Ella’s charm, kindness, and unique outlook on life and becomes infatuated with her. On learning that he has little time left, the King insists that Kit find a bride at an upcoming ball. Although Kit is required to marry a princess, he can’t get over the mystery girl, and he persuades his father to let every eligible maiden in the land attend.
When the ball is announced, the Tremaine family is ecstatic at the prospect of marrying into royalty. However, when Lady Tremaine refuses to buy Ella a new dress, Ella fixes up an old pink dress of her mother’s with help from the mice. On the night of the ball, Ella tries to join her stepfamily on the way out. Lady Tremaine, claiming that her mere presence will disgrace them, goads her daughters into helping her rip up the dress before leaving without her. Ella runs into the garden in tears and apologizes to her mother, saying that she doesn’t know how she can keep her promise of being courageous and kind. She then encounters an old beggar woman, who reveals herself to be her fairy godmother. She uses her magic to reveal her true form and subsequently to turn a pumpkin into a magnificent carriage, four mice into horses, two lizards into footmen, and a goose into a coachman. She then transforms Ella’s dress into a gorgeous blue gown, complete with a delicate pair of glass slippers before sending her on her way with the warning that the spell only lasts until midnight.
At the ball, the entire court is entranced by Ella, especially Kit. She wins the coveted first dance with him, whose true identity she is pleasantly surprised to learn. This irritates the Grand Duke, who secretly promised Kit to a specific princess—a fact that Lady Tremaine overhears. After dancing, Ella and Kit tour the palace and grounds together. But before he can learn her name, the clock begins to strike twelve, forcing her to flee and accidentally drop one of her glass shoes at the palace stairs in the process. She manages to get away before the stroke of midnight and hides the other shoe in her room as a memento, reasonably content that her one night will become a beautiful memory.
Soon after, the King dies, but not before giving his son permission to find the girl and marry her if he wishes. After Kit becomes king, he has it announced that every maiden in the kingdom is to try on the shoe. Ella goes to her room to get the other shoe, only to find her stepmother waiting with it in her hand. Lady Tremaine has deduced that Ella is the mystery maiden. She demands to be made the head of the royal household if Ella marries Kit. She also demands that Ella ensure that Drisella and Anastasia get proper husbands as well. Ella refuses, so Lady Tremaine smashes the shoe and locks her in the attic. She then brings the shattered shoe and identity of the mystery girl to the Grand Duke and blackmails him into rewarding her with the title of countess and advantageous marriages for her daughters. The Duke takes the shattered shoe to Kit, hoping to persuade him to forget the mystery girl, but this makes Kit more determined than ever to find her.
The Grand Duke and the captain of the guards lead a mission to try the remaining shoe on all the maidens in the land, but it fits none of them. When they arrive at the Tremaine estate, the shoe fits neither of the stepsisters. The officers turn to leave, only to hear Ella singing (“Lavender’s Blue”) through a window that the mice opened for that purpose. The Grand Duke tries to leave anyway, but one of the men reveals himself to be Kit in disguise and demands that the captain investigate the sound. Once Ella is found, Lady Tremaine forbids her to try on the shoe on the grounds that she is Ella’s mother, but is overruled by the captain. Ella then curtly tells Lady Tremaine that she never has been, and never will be, her mother. She and Kit are finally reunited. Kit recognizes Ella even without the shoe, which fits perfectly. The Grand Duke and the stepsisters plead for forgiveness. Ella leaves with Kit after forgiving her stepmother, who is forced to leave the kingdom soon after with her daughters and the Grand Duke.
At the wedding, Kit and Ella are crowned as the new king and queen. The Fairy Godmother narrates that they become the land’s most beloved monarchs, ruling with the courage and kindness that Ella had promised her mother, and they live happily ever after.
It was a very good film, making good use of a beloved tale, and expanding on it to provide more history to each of the characters. The greatest aspect of the film is the strong acting by everyone involved, though Lily James and Richard Madden deserve particular praise. A terrific film that will teach you that anything can happen as long as you believe, and that you only have to have courage and be kind. I definitely recommend this film to anyone.
Thanks for reading.