Discovering Empowerment: Unraveling the Twists of ‘Damsel’

As “Damsel” unfolds, the narrator’s voice sets the stage, dismissing traditional chivalric tales and offering a glimpse into a different kind of narrative. My initial reaction? Sarcasm laced with a hint of skepticism. In my mind, echoes of Miranda Priestly’s iconic critique resound: “Strong female lead? Groundbreaking.”

While I appreciate a resilient heroine as much as the next viewer, the tired trope of being “not like other girls” is becoming stale. “Damsel,” directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (“28 Weeks Later”) and penned by Dan Mazeau, isn’t without merit, but it feels somewhat worn. Starring Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie, a princess from a humble kingdom ruled by her father (Ray Winstone) and stepmother (Angela Bassett), the film takes us on a journey where consented marriage leads to a revelation of darker truths.

Elements of “Damsel” bear resemblance to feminist action films like “Ready or Not.” Both narratives feature heroines thrust into perilous situations within affluent families, yet “Damsel” infuses its tale with a fairy-tale ambiance, complete with dragons and a regal presence in Robin Wright’s queenly figure. Elodie embodies a modern Disney princess archetype: intelligent, resourceful, and determined to break free from the confines of her corseted life. Her evolution from obedience to assertion reflects a journey of self-actualization.

This portrayal isn’t inherently flawed; it’s essential to have heroines who navigate familial obligations while confronting their fears. Particularly for a younger audience, including fans of Brown from “Stranger Things,” the blend of relatable characters and fantastical elements holds appeal.

However, “Damsel” falls short in several aspects. Its visual effects, typical of Netflix productions, appear lackluster, and pacing issues detract from the overall experience. While the film’s early setup promises intrigue, the subsequent repetition of obstacles dampens the impact. Furthermore, the payoff from the revelation of Elodie’s predicament feels underwhelming.

Ultimately, “Damsel” underscores the importance of more than just a “strong female lead” in crafting a compelling narrative. Depth in supporting characters, a well-developed plot, and an understanding of audience engagement are essential. A heroine, no matter how resilient, must be human, with flaws and desires that resonate authentically. Teaching audiences that strength lies solely in physical, emotional, and mental power is a disservice, both to younger viewers and older ones alike.