By Janie Walenda
I’m a distractible person, which generally interferes with my movie watching. My mind will often wander, even when I’m watching something I love. “Encanto” is the first film in a while where I was invested the whole time. Not only is it entertaining, but “Encanto” contains some great messages about giftedness and family that stuck with me.
From a technical standpoint, the film is nearly flawless. While the animation isn’t groundbreaking, the visualization of the family’s powers, the house, and the musical numbers are next level. “Encanto” doesn’t force its musical numbers to be realistic, which allows for incredible visuals to convey the story and emotions of its characters. While the lyrics of the songs aren’t necessarily the strongest, especially when compared to Lin Manuel Miranda’s other works like “Hamilton” and “In The Heights,” the songs are catchy and energetic, with “Surface Pressure” and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” becoming instant classics.
Through diverse character design and personalities, each member of the Madrigal Family shines
Each member of the Madrigal family has an impact, even those with small roles. One of the main characters is Abuela, the matriarch of the family. “Encanto” opens with her and her family fleeing their village due to violence. This scene, and Abuela’s backstory, is heartbreaking, especially considering the real-world unrest in Columbia. Her backstory isn’t just there to be sad, however; it informs every decision Abuela makes. She feels an intense duty to share the gift her family was given. This is what leads her to put overwhelming pressure on her family. Her triplets, Pepa, Bruno, and Julieta, are given unique gifts by the house. Pepa and Julieta get married and have children, but Bruno is banished from the home because of his doomful predictions.
It’s difficult to settle on a favorite character because they all bring unique personalities to the film. I wish Pepa and Félix’s family got more screen time. I loved their dynamic, and they had the most interesting gifts. Pepa is an emotional character, which causes her weather-controlling powers to flare up. Contrasted with her husband Félix’s chiller attitude, the two make a fun couple. Camilo used his shape-shifting powers for great visual gags and Dolores’ enhanced hearing was both plot-convenient and hilarious. Antonio’s relationship with Mirabel was sweet and his gift of talking to animals, while underutilized, is interesting.
The film’s main focus is Julieta’s family. Her gift is healing injuries through cooking, which pairs well with her husband Agustín’s clumsiness. Their eldest daughter Isabela uses her gift to grow gorgeous flowers, while Luisa uses her super-strength to perform most of the chores around the village. Meanwhile, Mirabel is the only Madrigal with no gift, and so she spends her time trying to prove herself as just as special as the rest of her family.
Mirabel’s journey offers necessary commentary on gifts and value.
Where “Encanto” really shines is in its message about gifts. Mirabel is raised with the expectation that she would have a gift, and when she doesn’t, she and the rest of her family flounder. When the house starts crumbling, the blame initially falls on her, but it’s actually an expression of how the family is cracking.
Mirabel’s sisters struggle the most under the high expectations. Luisa’s song “Surface Pressure” contains lines such as “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service,” and “Who am I if I can’t carry it all?” Luisa’s strength is in demand from the entire community, and she feels that if she doesn’t do everything she’s asked to, she’ll fail. Luisa’s the first to lose her gift as the house cracks, and she also loses her whole identity. Meanwhile, Isabella feels restricted to pretty flowers and being perfect. Her song, “What Else Can I Do?” is her experimenting with all the weird and bold plants she can create.
“Encanto” resonated with me on so many levels. I was a “gifted” child growing up, so I always expected that I would change the world. However, as I’ve grown up, I’ve lost that ambition. It feels like the expectation from society is to find the thing you’re great at, and that’s how you contribute to the world. I’ve learned there are plenty of things I’m good at, I don’t have a particular talent that shows what I’m meant to do.
Of course, as Christians, we know our purpose: to glorify God. And we know He’s given us gifts that we should use to honor Him and help others. Yet, we are not suddenly worthless to God if we’re not using our gift every second of every day. Resting and taking care of ourselves is just as glorifying to God as work is. Singing in worship off-key in our bedrooms is just as glorifying as singing on the chapel stage. God is just as delighted in stick figures as He is in masterpieces. He loves us not because of what we do but because we are His children. All we have to do is ask ourselves each day how we can use what we have at the moment to glorify God.
Janie Walenda is a freshman Global Business major and an A&E writer for Cedars. She enjoys watching musicals and movies as well as rereading the same books ten times over.