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Elizabeth is a Vancouver-based writer, editor, and author. Her first book “Beyond Black and White” is available now. She is an old soul who's young at heart, a human jukebox, and a corgi lady in training. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @ElizabethThe.

Movie Review: “Brave” Strikes a Bullseye!

Brave Poster

Hear ye, hear ye! Disney and Pixar’s latest animated feature film hits right on target!

From the dream team that brought us classics such as Toy StoryUp, and Monsters, Inc. comesBrave, a tale set in a medieval Scottish kingdom with Princess Merida of the Dunbroch clan at the helm of all the action. Merida is an unconventional princess who defies the prim and proper ways of a young lady, as she prefers exploring the great outdoors to practicing her royal duties within the walls of her family’s castle. When she discovers that she is soon to be betrothed to a suitor from a neighbouring clan, the headstrong heroine is determined to do whatever it takes to change her fate, leading her to unleash a magical spell that may threaten the lives of her family and her kingdom. Merida sets off on an adventure to undo the curse and faces the most challenging test of her boldness and bravery.

If that synopsis is not enough to incite you into the theatres, here are my seven reasons as to why Brave deserves a big ‘Bravo!’

A marvel of animation and imagination, Brave is an artistic marvel of medieval Scotland. The sprawling Scottish landscape, with its evergreen hills, mountains, and forests, is shown in all of its majestic glory. One of the visual highlights is the breathtakingly beautiful moment Merida climbs the highest cliff and reaches a waterfall seldom touched by the strongest of men. Even more, Brave celebrates the finest in Celtic culture – particularly in the scene at the court’s highland games, which showcases everything from bagpipes to kilts to generous helpings of haggis. The magical element of the film invites a few pieces of Celtic legend, including the ancient stone circle, wisps (spirits), spells, and bears (oh my!). Along withBrave’s traditional folk soundtrack, this film has certainly sparked my interest in Scottish heritage!

If you have been following this year’s crop of movies as a hawk like I have, you are sure to have noticed the abundance of archery in the box office hits. Following in the trails of The Hunger GamesThe Avengers, and Snow White and the HuntsmanBrave is right on target with this recent trend. Merida wields a bow and arrow when galloping through the wilderness with her trusty horse, Angus, and uses her weaponry to oppose her expected state of wedlock.  As a symbol of drive, determination, and agility, archery fits well within the overarching themes of Brave.

There are laughs aplenty in Brave, with the main source of the comic relief coming from the band of merry men in the movie. Merida’s jovial father, King Fergus’s silly imitation of his daughter gets me every single time:  ”I don’t want to get married! I want to stay single! And let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen, firing arrows into the sunset!” Harris, Hubert, and Hammish, Merida’s troublesome triplet brothers, whom she dubs to be “wee little rascals”, are constantly making a mess, from terrorizing the kitchen staff to causing a riot in the main hall. The revealing of the three young men vying for Merida’s hand in marriage garners a hilarious response, and the clans from which they hail from are just as laughable. And of course, there is a serving of boisterous and bawdy humour, as to be expected from a film involving kilts.

Move over, Rapunzel! There’s a new princess in the land whose locks of love are to be envied by all, and her name is Merida (I heard that her hair is insured by CGI…) That volume! That vibrancy! Those flowing, unruly, and radiant red curls are like an eternal frame, which is so suited to Merida’s fiery personality and is a wonder to watch on the silver screen.

After the successful debut of the kickass Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, there has been a huge demand for more female-fronted films in Hollywood. Brave’s Merida is the animated answer to that call. As Pixar’s first central heroine, Merida is adventurous, feisty, rebellious, strong-minded, and outspoken – qualities which make her quite the unorthodox princess. She is also an intriguing flawed character; when her outspokenness, stubbornness, and hot temper clashes with her mother, we are reminded us that she is still a sixteen-year old teenage girl. The wild child princess has a mind of her own when it comes to how she wants to live her life. Merida has zero interest in playing by the rules of the royalty. She expresses great reservation towards the tradition of arranged marriage; Merida rejects her line of suitors by declaring that she will be shooting for her own hand. Her refusal to comply with the conventions of courtship is a very modern move indeed; let’s face it, young women today are still facing pressures from society regarding dating and marriage. I think it’s empowering when any film challenges this preconceived notion of when a woman should get married, if at all. This coupled with her female agency in the film is a win for feminism. This firecracker proves that she is worthy of being a leader on her own. Independent women rejoice!

What’s so novel about Brave is the mother/daughter dynamic between Queen Elinor and Princess Merida, which are both the driving force and my favourite element of the entire film (as a mama’s girl, their scenes tug at my heartstrings). This coming of age story is centered on turbulent relationship between Elinor and Merida, who were very close as mother and daughter during Merida’s childhood. As a teenager, the free-spirited and daring princess is at odds with the Queen, who prides tradition and perfection. While they both love each other, they fail to see eye-to-eye on the issues of duty and freedom. It’s only when Merida and Elinor start to listen that they begin to understand one another, thus transforming their characters, repairing their strained relationship and strengthening their bond. The fact that mother/daughter relationships are seldom explored in Hollywood movies is quite alarming, but this storyline is certainly an advancement towards filling this void in the media. If you are at all familiar with the Bechdel Test, which evaluates female/female interactions in films that do not revolve around a male character, Brave passes with flying colours!

There are many important life lessons to be learned from Brave. For one thing, do not trust some sketchy witch in the forest because she might suddenly go AWOL on you without notice! In the teasers for Brave, Merida begs the question: “If you could change your fate, would you?” The young princess’s decision to defy her royal tasks drives her to take matters into her own hand; consequentially, her dealing with black magic puts the entire realm at risk. In her journey to right the wrong she has wrought upon her kingdom, Merida discovers what it takes to change your fate, shape your destiny, AND do so with courage. It is courageous to take control of your fate and destiny with conviction, but you must also be mindful of how your decisions and actions will affect those you care about. True bravery is all about compassion and understanding.

Have you seen Brave? What does bravery mean to you?

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