Once upon a time, Disney used to tell tales of romance and happily ever afters. But in recent years, the shift has been to movies about love in a different form. Love for yourself, for your siblings, love for your parents, and your people. Encanto continues this new legacy, but like with Raya and the Last Dragon, it brings an added critique of social norms and emphasizes community collectivism.
Encanto tells the story of Maribel Madrigal (Stephanie Beatriz), her X-men-eqsue family and their magical mansion, Casita. Like Disney heroines before her, Maribel is clever, courageous and caring; the only thing she’s not is special like the rest of the Madrigals.
The same magical candle that blessed her family with their sentient house gave her sisters the ability to make flowers bloom and lift buildings like they’re feather-light. Likewise, her cousins can speak to animals and hear whispers miles away. But Maribel… when it was time for her to open the door to her future, vanished before her eyes—leaving her the only mundane Madrigal in town.
Your family, literal superheroes, along with your grandmother, the matriarch, a woman who led everyone fleeing from political violence to safety, raise you to join their ranks to become a community leader just like them. Instead, you’re the one person who has no specific powers. No clear destiny. What do you do?
The best you can, that’s what you do, and that’s precisely what Maribel does!
Encanto makes it abundantly clear from the jump that Maribel is the odd one out of the family. As a result, the movie isn’t without its mystery and challenges, but they’re not earth-shattering larger-than-life problems. Instead, it centres on dysfunctional interpersonal relationships and how much they can impact us when we choose to sweep them under the carpet. It shines a light on the cracks that appear beneath the surface in the connections between our loved ones and us when we choose to play a part rather than live openly and honestly.
But even in the face of adversity, Maribel refuses to give in to despair. She chooses instead to face her emotions and work through them head-on. Something none of the Madrigals but Maribel seem to be able to do.
So when it comes time to tackle the real crisis threatening to tear apart casita literally, it’s her defiant honesty, optimism and can-do attitude that save the day and not everyone else’s powers from helping her super-strong sister, Luisa (Jessica Darrow), to mending the rift between her and the ever-perfect Isabela (Diane Guerrero). Maribel’s resilience and her unwavering devotion to her loved ones brings undeniable heart to the film.
A heart that beats beautifully to its expressive soundtrack. From the upbeat intro of ‘The Family Madrigal’ to Maribel’s emotional declaration in ‘Waiting On A Miracle,’. Encanto makes a point to highlight its characters’ struggles and worries with melodies that leap your toes, tapping and tugging at your heartstrings.
On the whole, Disney’s Encanto doesn’t have the same grandioseness of movies past, where the lead goes on to save a kingdom. Instead, it’s more subdued and lowkey. It chooses to reflect on the significance of community, family and the importance of knowing when to stand out from the crowd— making for one emotional and truly enchanting film.