22 May 2024
Damsel read our review

Film Review – Damsel (2024)

Just in time to celebrate International Women’s Day, Damsel drops on Netflix on the 8th of March and it is the perfect film to mark such an occasion as it is headlined by a strong, courageous, resourceful female lead who has to take her life into her own hands after being told what to do for far too long. If you are a fan of the fantasy genre, this movie will be the threat you have been waiting for all this time, while asking yourself why is it that good fantasy movies are so hard to come by these days.

Our titular damsel is Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown), a young noblewoman who agrees to marry a handsome prince, Henry (Nick Robinson), to help her people, including her little sister Floria (Brooke Carter), her father (Ray Winstone), and her stepmother (Angela Bassett). But there is more to the royal family than what meets the eye and Elodie soon finds out that it was all a trap as she finds herself thrown in a cave. There, she finds herself trapped with a fire-spitting dragon (Shohreh Aghdashloo), determined to kill her. To survive, she must use all her skills and her wits as she prepares to face the place where many other women have met their premature end.

We start where most fairy tales usually end, with a wedding. From its beginning, the entire film feels like a reversal of the classic fairy tale tropes, including princesses, dragons that spit fire, and old traditions and legends. As such, it creates something that is both familiar to the audience and also novel and exciting in its execution at the same time. I also liked how Elodie takes control of her destiny rather than waiting for a prince to save her or do what she is told. As far as fairy tales go, this is fairly novel to see on screen, even in 2024, and what better message for young girls to look up to than this?

Visually, the film is very impressive as it creates a fascinating new world for the audience to explore, with all the nuances, wonder, and fear this entails. The film also handles its special effects well: any scene that features fire or the dragon is breathtaking and a joy to look at. Millie Bobby Brown shines the brightest in the film, in a lead role that was not easy to pull off: within a short time and only little dialogue, she immediately draws the audience on her side. Her strong performance is matched by an equally powerful supporting cast, headlined by Angela Bassett, and Shohreh Aghdashloo who give life to two of the most interesting characters in the whole film.

The film is also great at building tensions and constantly reminding us of where the stakes are, with danger waiting ahead for our protagonist as the movie goes on. But ultimately the script is where the film is at its weakest with an overly slow first act that takes too long to get started and some overly expositionary sequences. While it is filled with twists and turns every step of the way, the film lacks the character depth that could have made it great. I would have loved to hear more about the characters’ backgrounds and motivations that make them the people we see on screen.

Damsel is a successful addition to the dark fantasy genre that fans of this type of film will surely enjoy for its masterful use of visual effects and fascinating inclusion of classical fairy tale tropes with an entirely new structure to it. It is also a great addition to the Netflix catalogue as the streaming service once again proves, especially after The School For Good and Evil two years ago, to be a frontrunner in the distribution of the fantasy genre, which is often hard to do right for such a wide audience, and book-to-films adaptations.

★★

On Netflix March 8th / Millie Bobby Brown, Ray Winstone, Nick Robinson, Robin Wright, Angela Bassett / Dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo / Netflix / 12


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