Director: Kenneth Branagh
Screenwriter: Chris Weitz from a Cinderella story by Charles Perrault
Runtime: 105 mins.
Australian release date: 26 March 2015
Kenneth Branagh once again exhibits his exemplary diversity, in this case as director, in this wonderful adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, which adds to the diversity of his directorial roles. This dramatic family fantasy is a treat for both adults and kids alike and could perhaps make it all the way to the Oscars next year, not only for its terrific cast, but also for its production and costume design.
When her mother dies, the beautiful Ella (Lily James) ends up with a new step-mother, Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and a duo of spoilt, opportunistic step-siblings, Drisella (Sophia McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). Ella’s doting father (Ben Chaplin) tries desperately to unite the two families but (and this is no spoiler because we all know the story) his early demise puts his dutiful daughter at the mercy of her new ‘mother’ and ‘sisters’. Renamed Cinderella, Ella is set to work as the family’s drudge and is constantly on the receiving end of Blanchett’s haughty malevolence. One day, however, while out in the woods, Cinderella encounters a handsome young man (Richard Madden) who sheds a glimmer of light into her dark world but, as often happens in fairy tales, it won’t be easy for this ‘light’ to brighten her life for she has unknowingly met the Prince of the realm, a catch far beyond her reach.
When the rest of the family head off to the King’s (Derek Jacobi) ball, which is being held to fulfil his desire for the Prince to find a bride, Cinderella is paid a visit by the Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter). Complete with sparkling prosthetic molars, the FG has the power to kick the fairy tale into gear and, with the help of a little magic, Cinderella heads off to the ball decked out in the most beautiful blue gown and transported in a magnificent carriage. And the rest, as they say, is fantasy… well, it ain’t history! This is one of the most entertaining moments in the film as Dante Ferretti’s production design and Sandy Powells’ costume designs are simply fabulous.
Branagh has created a charming version of this well-loved story and managed to deliver a modern yet faithful rendition of this ancient fantasy. The performances are all excellent, from Blanchett’s evil step-mother and her petulant daughters, through to Lily James’s gorgeous but compromised heroine, and all the characters in-between, human and otherwise. It is thoroughly recommended for a family outing, boys and girls alike. There is enough CGI action to keep the boys happy and that luminescent blue ball gown is enough to make every girl sit in the dark and fantasise about meeting her Prince Charming and, like Cinderella, live happily ever after.