“Welcome to the Family Madrigal. The home of the Family Madrigal. Where all the people are fantastical and magical.” Imagine living in a family where everyone in your family has been blessed with a gift, whether they can make flowers of dreamy pink and purple hues bloom or heal a bright red gash with an arepa con queso. But you did not have the luck to be blessed with one.
On the 24th of December, Disney released Encanto on Disney. I watched it on Christmas day with my sister and I enjoyed it far more than I expected to. Truthfully, I expected it to have a somewhat predicable storyline: a girl who is different and goes on a mission to fight the villain and gets something special, or a power at the end. However, it didn’t follow that storyline.
Encanto is about a girl called Mirabel who is part of the ‘Family Madrigal.’ In their family, everyone has a ‘gift,’ which they get when they come of age. However, when it was Mirabel’s time to get a gift, she didn’t get one. One day, she sees cracks forming in her house and sees a prediction that the fate of her house lies up to her, however the house breaks. Of course, they build it again at the end, but it was about the process of what happened. Funnily enough, although the movie obviously had a protagonist, the movie wasn’t centred on her but rather the connections between the family members and the struggles each of them go through. This movie followed many day-to-day struggles of many people and mental health issues which many viewers found relatable.
The first issue was introduced in Mirabel’s song ‘Waiting on a Miracle.’ In this song, she expresses how she feels insufficient compared to her relatives who she feels are so much more special. She talks about how she keeps waiting on a miracle and pleads to be blessed with a gift like the rest of the family. This song takes place when her younger cousin gets a gift, and the rest of her family takes a picture together, excluding her. ‘Waiting on a Miracle’ can reflect the idea of having low self-worth and deep insecurities, which can connect to many teenagers in the current age since the cases of depression have been increasing in teenagers year by year. It also shows how Mirabel knows deep down that she is more than what people say, but at the end of the day, its so hard to brush off what they say, especially when they are your loved ones. Even among friends, its easy to feel that you aren’t special enough, that you don’t look as good, you aren’t as smart as them or you aren’t as liked as them but by the end of the movie Mirabel learns that she is enough, with or without a gift and the family learn altogether that ‘The miracle is you, not some gift, just you.’ This is an extremely comforting thought for many viewers, and it could help them be more forgiving and accepting towards themselves. Elizabeth Gbedemah, a classmate who saw Encanto felt that “Mirabel is relatable because of her thoughts about not being good enough most people feel overshadowed by older siblings or older relatives and feel like they have to meet the same or better expectations than those around them when really they are enough.”
The next issue was introduced in Mirabel’s sister Luisa’s song ‘Surface Pressure.’ Luisa’s gift is super strength which allows her to carry an immense weight on her shoulders, but in this song, we learn that this weight is not only physical but also metaphorical. She talks about how for everyone else, she must also be the ‘strong one’ who is never ‘nervous.’ But ‘under the surface,’ she feels ‘berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus.’ The simile she uses to describe her anxiety can show how she is in a problematic and pressurizing situation which cannot be escaped from. This could maybe show she feels trapped in her responsibility to always carry the weight of the family problems on her shoulders. In the bridge, she discusses the idea of being free but then the chorus comes back, and more musical elements are added to the final chorus which can show how she feels challenged. This is another topic that is very relevant to this generation, since many times we feel as though we are faced with an insurmountable pressure which is piled upon us by various people. But by the end of the movie, Luisa finds out that she can share her burdens, and this would provide solace to many people who constantly feel like this. She also feels as though her self-worth depends on how useful she is but she, just like Mirabel learns that she is more than just her gift. A number of friends and classmates have mentioned how Luisa’s character meant a lot to them because they were going through the same challenges but watching her discover that she could share her burden helped them to ease their own burdens and troubles.
The next most significant scene was when Mirabel first met Bruno. From the song ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ we learn about Bruno. He is described as having a ‘seven-foot frame’ with ‘rats along his back.’ The eerie imagery causes the audience to think of him as the antagonist of the movie. He was born with the gift of seeing the future and seems to predict quite grim prophecies such as a fish dying and rain on his sister’s wedding day. However, we learn that Bruno is nothing like that and because of his ominous gift, people misunderstood him, and Abuela Alma believed that his gift wasn’t helping the family, which is why he left. He believed the family was better off without him, but when he returned, his sisters were overwhelmed to see him and everyone loved the fact that he came back when they said, ‘we’re just happy that you’re here.’ Many people sometimes feel like the world would be better without them, but there’s always at least one person that treasures you and this movie shows that beautifully.
Mirabel’s oldest sister, Isabela’s song ‘What Else Can I Do’ tackles how her image feels like her adversary. All along her life, Isabela has been this idealised version of a ‘perfect’ sister, cousin, daughter, and grandchild and is tied up by the image she must project of this beautiful, perfect woman, who is emphasised by the fact that her gift is making flowers. After unleashing her anger at Mirabel, she makes something ‘unexpected,’ a cactus, and in the form of a song, her and Mirabel talk about how it doesn’t matter if something isn’t symmetrical or perfect to be beautiful, it just needs to be yours. This is another important topic since many have an internal struggle to be this perfect role model, but perfection doesn’t mean automatic happiness, since although Isabela was perfect, she wasn’t truly happy and expressed how she was ‘so sick of pretty and just wanted ‘something true.’ Also, Mirabel and Isabela didn’t have a great relationship, but this song helped them grow closer together, showing that every bond is never irreparable. It can be a comfort for viewers to know that no-one has to be perfect, they just need to be themselves.
Pepa, the aunt of Mirabel, has the power of changing the weather with her mood, but like any other human she also has emotions which constantly have to be supressed to avoid a hurricane forming. But at the end, she learns to embrace the hurricanes and bathe in her showers of hail that are a cause of her mood changes. Pepa’s character was crucial to the movie because it showed how all of your emotions are beautiful.
In my opinion, I believe this movie is one of the best Disney movies, despite not having the best visual effects that you can appreciate in Moana and Frozen however the message of the movie and of the individual characters is one that is special for every viewer. It tackles sensitive topics such as depression, anxiety, and exclusion in a way and resolves them in a way that it touches everyone who watches it and hopefully consoles those who feel the same way as many of the characters. Of course, you can always take the movie in the way it is shown, a house breaking and a family rebuilding the house, or you can delve in the deeper meaning of connections between family members being broken and each family member struggling but through love and unity, they heal the bonds and strengthen themselves.
In everyday life, we tend shy away from the topic of mental health or problems within a family, but Encanto copes with the topics bravely and sends a heart-warming message to anyone who watches it: “You’re the real gift.”