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Cinderella: a movie review

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Lily James as Cinderella and Richard Madden as Prince 'Kit' Charming dance together in the ballroom scene in the new Walt Disney's remake of their 1950 animated musical classic movie, Cinderella (Credit: Walt Disney Studios)

{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/20DF6U1HcGQ?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}In the latest rendition of the classic story, director Kenneth Branagh brings Cinderella to life in a way that is true to the well-known tale while still feeling original. The film begins with narration describing the seemingly perfect life enjoyed by a young Cinderella (Lily James) with her mother and father. However tragedy strikes when her mother becomes ill and passes away. Her last words to young Ella, Cinderella’s given name, are “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer: Have courage and be kind.” That advice will define much of her life as she seeks to live it out in the midst of increasingly trying circumstances, such as her father’s remarriage several years later.

Cate Blanchett does a superb job as Ella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine, bringing greater balance to the traditionally wicked character. While the Stepmother is still undeniably the villain of the tale, her backstory reveals that the vile nature that makes her so detestable was more the creation of personal tragedy than a natural predisposition. Prior to marrying Ella’s father, she lost her first husband, whom she truly did love. You get the sense that this experience changed her in the years that followed.

The remainder of the film recounts Ella’s meeting with the prince, the fateful ball that she attends only with the help of her fairy godmother, and the search to find the owner of the glass slipper that she left behind in her frantic effort to return home before the spell wore off. While that summary glosses over much of the movie’s plot, I’d rather spend the remainder of this review comparing the film’s two main characters: Ella and her Stepmother. More specifically, I’d like to compare the way that each has dealt with tragedy and the impact that it had on their lives going forward because I think that is where we will find the truth that we most need to learn today.

In the film, both Ella and her stepmother lost someone they loved dearly. The difference in their characters lies largely in their approach to this loss. The Stepmother’s loss was met with despair and a hardened view of the world. However, Ella views her loss from the perspective of her mother’s final words: “Have courage and be kind.” She doesn’t allow tragedy to define her but rather clings to the belief that the world can still be a good place if one simply has courage and is kind. Moreover, her life becomes a testament to the fact that it often takes courage to be kind. And that is really the primary message of the film.

Kindness is a quality that is far easier to admire in others than to live out in our own lives. It takes courage to show kindness to others when it is not reciprocated or when doing so is likely to cost you something.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes what this kind of courage should look like for his disciples. In a series of statements in which he corrected common misunderstandings of the Law, Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matt. 5:38-39). He would continue a few verses later by describing how we are to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

Both of these passages are commonly quoted by preachers and other Christians in describing the sort of kindness we should show to those who mistreat us. Unfortunately, far less is said about how we should go about accomplishing that. It takes courage to turn the other cheek and it takes courage to pray for our enemies instead of against them. And ultimately, it takes a kind of courage that must come from God because we are not likely to consistently find it in ourselves.

The good news is that God longs to give you this courage and to help you show kindness to others. Such love is the sign to the world that we are true disciples of Christ (John 13:35) and an integral part of God’s desire for your life. Have you asked God for that courage today?