Encanto ★★★

“You’re exactly what the family needs. You just have to see it”.

Encanto is a more low-key Disney film in many ways but in spirit. While the story is confined to one location, and there is no central antagonist, at its core beats a simple heart - a tale of family, the pressure to achieve perfection, familial expectations, sense of self, and the fear of not being good enough.

Our protagonist, Mirabel isn’t special - not by her family’s standards anyhow. When every Madrigal comes of age, a special ability, a gift, is bestowed upon them, but for some reason, Mirabel was never the recipient of such a magical gift. Surrounded by perfection, Mirabel feels as though she has let the family down, as though she is not good enough, and the cracks beneath the seemingly perfect surface come to light - literally and metaphorically.

All is not as perfect as it seems, as bubbling beneath it all is a great sense of unresolved pain. If we think of the house as a representation of the family, then all that happens - the cracks, the breaks - is all a mirror for the family’s hidden torment. With everybody trying to be perfect, trying to be their gift, and Abuela trying to maintain what is, in her eyes, the lasting memory of her husband, they lose sight of themselves, and of what is truly important - family, love. The cracks grow as familial resentments and sentiments come to light, as the wounds inflicted unintentionally by Bruno show their scars, as everyone buckles under the pressure to be perfect.

In fact, it is not that Mirabel isn’t special, it’s that her ‘gift’ is not a magical one - she is the one to save the family, to remind everyone of the important things in love. She brings the family Madrigal back together again, and allows for the need for perfection to subside.

Encanto’s themes aren’t necessarily subtle, but they are effective nonetheless. Perhaps the resolution could have been paced better. It is a very pleasing tale that breaks down the idea of being special - we don’t need to be gifted to be important, and if we are gifted in some way, that gift is not the only facet of who we are.

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