Welcome to the… Family Drama?


Image: Walt Disney Animation

Shivani Ojha, Staff Writer

This review contains spoilers.

Disney has come out with another enthralling, animated musical with a message that resonates with all audiences. Encanto has become a big hit in the U.S, with its most popular song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” having 96 million views on YouTube. Encanto takes place in 20th century Colombia, during the Thousand Days’ War, and there was a commendable effort to maintain historical authenticity throughout the movie. One of the biggest things that resonated with me is that the whole story is centered around family dynamics, especially the interactions between Abuela Madrigal and the other family members. Abuela is so focused on preserving the miracle they had been given that she pressures her family into being perfect. The prime example of this is Isabella, Mirabel’s sister. She was labeled as “the perfect child” since receiving her gift, and she  has been held to that standard since. She is willing to marry Mariano even though she doesn’t love him to please Abuela, and her song is dedicated to her breaking out of the mold and being true to herself. 

This brings me to Abuela’s story. She is a victim of the Thousands Day’s War, a violent civil war that left Columbia in chaos. In a flashback, she and her husband, Pedro, are shown fleeing their village while under attack. Pedro sacrifices himself to save his wife and his three newborn children. This portrayal of the anguish and loss many Colombian families felt during this violent period stayed true to the nation’s history. Encanto’s writers clearly took the time to learn and understand the country, which shows that they care about the movie on a personal level. I also like how they tie Abuela’s backstory into the plot by showing her trauma and how it affected her.

 The story also demonstrates how being different can be a strength. Mirabel is the only Madrigal without a magical gift, and that makes her feel isolated from her family. In the opening scene, Mirabel sings about the magical gifts of all the members of her family, but when someone asks about her gift, she avoids the question, revealing her shame. However, she is able to save the magic from fading by helping Abuela see that the true gift was her family. She was never defined or dependent on a gift to give her an identity; in fact, it was her lack of magic that gave her the different perspective needed to reunite her family. This is a powerful message for the younger generation, teaching them to embrace their differences and accept who they are.

Contrary to most Disney plotlines, Encanto doesn’t include a specific villain in the story that needs to be defeated. At the beginning, it is hinted that Bruno could be a possible villain, but it is later revealed that he didn’t mean to do any harm. He is hated for predicting bad fate, something completely out of his control. Similarly, Abuela is also a more subtle villain, constantly blaming Mirabel for the disappearance of their family’s magic. Nonetheless, Abuela’s desire to protect her family, which stems from her past trauma, redeems her. The real “villain” seems to be the lack of communication in the family, a very relatable concept to many viewers. 

I wanted to give the Encanto soundtrack an honorable mention. I cannot find a song that I hate in this movie, and it almost matches my love for the soundtrack of Disney’s Moana. I listen to it almost every night while studying.

All in all, Encanto has been one of my favorite movies of 2021. With its spectacular visuals and enchanting soundtrack, it is sure to be an entertaining watch for the family.