Set in the wild, mysterious highlands of ancient Scotland, Brave is Pixar’s first film to feature a female heroine. Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is the complete opposite of her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). While the one is strong willed, tomboyish and a skilled archer, the other is prim and polite, and yearns for her daughter to learn to act like a proper princess. The pair have thus far managed to live with their stark differences, but when Elinor announces that Merida must soon choose a son from one of their rival clans to wed, the rebellious teenaged princess decides that enough is enough. She flees the castle on her trusty steed Angus, and led by ethereal woodland sprites - the will-o’-the-wisps - she stumbles upon the cottage of an old eccentric witch (Julie Walters) from whom she seeks a spell to change her mother’s mind about her fate...
This film has a lot of heart and explores the heavily tested bond between mother and daughter which a lot of women will be able to relate to, as Elinor and Merida learn that they can benefit from being a little like one another, and come to terms with their differences. Much of the plot is rooted in Celtic folklore - such as the will-o’-the-wisps, which in legend are supposed to lead people to their fate, as well as magic and an ancient curse. However I did think that Merida’s fate would hang on something more life altering and interesting than who she marries; I was under the impression that the fate of the realm would rest on her shoulders. It was here where the plot disappointed me and conformed to more traditional Disney princess tales, which in turn makes Brave Pixar’s most unambitious film so far in terms of story.
Aside from the more serious and sentimental side to the plot, the film is very funny, with slapstick humour as well as more adult remarks. Merida’s young brothers are very mischievous, constantly causing chaos throughout the castle, and they brought a smile to my face. The kids in the cinema were howling with laughter, but the older members of the audience were laughing at multiple moments as well, so this is a film most age groups will be able to enjoy.
The characters are well drawn and entertaining. Merida is refreshing as the princess who despises her life as a royal and yearns for adventure and to shoot arrows all day long.
Queen Elinor is a great example of the typical stern mother, constantly bossing Merida about and rolling her eyes at her daughter, her three naughty sons and her jolly husband. Fergus (Billy Connolly), the vengeful King who lost his leg to the vicious bear Mordu, is a laugh riot, and understands his daughter much better than Elinor does.
Brave is visually stunning. All Pixar films look beautiful, but I think this one is my favourite. The film crew toured round Scotland in order to get the scenery just right, and the extra time and effort they put in really shows; the shots of the Scottish highlands are breathtaking, atmospheric and realistic. Another feature of the visuals I loved was Merida’s wild mane of fiery red curls - the attention to detail put into her tresses is amazing and reflects her untamed character.
In conclusion, Brave is not your average princess movie - Merida is a fiery tomboy who hates being forced to act like a lady and longs to roam the wilds of Scotland with her bow and loyal stallion. At its core it is a heartfelt study of the mother / daughter relationship, but with plenty of humour thrown in, as well as magic and tidbits from Celtic legend, it is a film that most people will find endearing and enjoyable.