Film Review: Damsel

The Setup

Actress Millie Bobby Brown, as the titular heroine Elodie, lives in an impoverished country with her non-royal family. She narrates the movie, and describes herself as a damsel in distress who cannot depend on a knight in shining armor, and must rescue herself from imminent peril.

Elodie’s first scenes include chopping wood and dragging branches back to their humble home with her younger sister Floria for company. Their country is in ruin, her father, the leader of her county, desperate to help his people. 

An unexpected offer of gold for Elodie’s hand in marriage to a royal prince leads her father to accept, and the family travels by ship to a distant country which initially looks prosperous but hides dark secrets.  

The Plot Thickens

Once the wedding has finished, a blood-mingling ceremony in the mountains reveals the queen (actress Robin Wright) evil, the prince-groom weak. This queen is no Princess Buttercup gone bad; she has a centuries-old agreement with the angry resident dragon to sacrifice three of royal blood each generation.

During the performance of the blood ceremony, Elodie has gained royal blood. The prince throws Elodie over the edge of a cliff in the cave to complete one-third of the sacrifice. 

The Strong Female Lead

Elodie realizes after fruitless running through dark tunnels, crying and calling for help, that no one is going to rescue her. The dragon communicates with her while it pursues her, possibly telepathic, and as she survives each fiery encounter, it begins to respect her as a worthy adversary.

Thanks to the names of previous victims on a cave wall, Elodie finds that this wedding and sacrifice ritual has been going on for a long time. The dragon telepathically reveals that her anger is against those of royal blood who destroyed her three daughters, last of their kind. 

The mingling of royal blood with Elodie’s after the wedding makes the dragon believe that Elodie is royalty, yet the queen has developed this charade to ensure sacrifices are always commoners who marry the current prince.

Attempted Rescue

Elodie’s guilt-ridden father comes back to try and save her from her fate. The dragon strikes him down, but the distraction helps her escape the cave. The dragon comes in pursuit but can’t find her.

Her stepmother (actress Angela Bassett) meets Elodie on the plains near the cave when her father does not return. The queen has taken Elodie’s sister Floria, since Elodie is still alive and has not fulfilled the sacrifice. 

Elodie sends her stepmother back to prepare their ship for departure, and returns to the horrors of the cave to rescue her sister. This time, Elodie knows the cave’s maze, the map, and ways to survive the dragon.

The Truth Revealed

Her bravery leads to the ultimate plot twist, breaking the royal chain of dishonor.

The theme is “girl power—empowerment.” The women of the film (Elodie, her sister and stepmother) are all stronger than the male counterparts (her father and the groom-prince.)

The moral seems to be that strength within one’s self can surmount obstacles, that waiting for the prince to rescue you in real life can be a dicey proposition, translation: rescue yourself, honey.

Personal Take

I enjoyed the movie, but had difficulty believing Elodie was unhurt after being thrown over a cliff. The subsequent scenes learning to survive in the cave seemed to last forever with dodgy pacing, but after Elodie’s father shows up to rescue her, the film moves along again. 

The dragon’s CGI wasn’t as good as I hoped, but I did empathize with the mother dragon’s grief, which generated the royal trickery and the loss of many young women over generations.

Millie Bobby Brown is a talented actress who carried this movie on her shoulders. She excelled in Stranger Things and Enola Holmes, and does not disappoint here.

I would recommend it as entertaining fare, with some familiar good actors from the past in lead roles. Oh, and the ending is yet another plot twist, and priceless.

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