Conner’s Critiques: “Encanto” is a magical portrayal of toxic families and neglect


Credit: DISNEY

Conner McBride, Business Manager

“Encanto” is a magical, music-filled movie that was released on Nov. 24, 2021 and tells the tale of the Madrigal family who live in a small town centred in a valley in Colombia. All the members of the Madrigal family possess some sort of gift, like Dolores Madrigal, played by singer Adassa, who can hear so well she can hear a pin drop. All of the members of the Madrigal family have unique gifts except our main character, Mirabel. 

The Madrigals got their powers back when Abuela was only a young adult and fleeing her village from bandits with her husband, Pedro Madrigal, and a group of other villagers. They were chased through the night with only a candle to guide the way until Pedro turns back and sacrifices himself, his sacrifice giving the candle magic and creating both the valley they live in today and the gifts that the Madrigals possess.

The music in this movie, just like the music from so many other disney movies is phenomenal, the soundtrack gives more perspective to the characters and their true feelings other than just what their outer appearances suggest.

The setting of this movie is a gorgeous valley in Columbia that is surrounded by rolling hills which shelter the small, colourful town they live in. All of the houses are small but brightly painted in a myriad of hues, from magenta to bright orange to vibrant turquoise. 

At the very back of the town we see the most colourful house, where the Madrigals live, affectionately called “Casita,” a sentient house where all of the Madrigals live. Wherever you look, a new colour meets your eyes, like the light pink of Isabela Madrigal’s room or the pastel green of Bruno Madrigal’s tower.

The inside of Casita is just as colourful as the outside with each of the characters having their own room that incorporates their power into the decor. For example, Antonio’s room has a giant tree with flowing waterfalls falling from the branches that house all of the animals he talks to. Isabela’s room is covered in the flowers she creates. 

All of these rooms have been created by Casita when the family members each get their gifts, to the point where the casita even carves out a room into the wall for Bruno when he is exiled. 

Yet despite all of the magic Casita is able to create in all of these rooms. It doesn’t create a room for Mirabel and forces her to stay in the nursery. 

The outfits the characters wear are also just as vibrant as their small town. Each character is seen wearing traditional Colombian clothing which gives subtle hints about what the character’s gift is. 

Abuela has candle flames around the collar of her outfit, Dolores has soundwaves along her sleeves, Isabela has flowers on almost the entirety of her dress and Luisa has weights patterned around the edge of her skirt which represents her power: super strength. Mirabel just has a plain teal skirt and white top that she embroiders herself to be covered in multiple different colours in patterns of butterflies or flowers. 

The directors and writers for the movie, Charise Castro Smith, Byron Howard and Jared Bush all took steps to give the movie as much authenticity as one can cram into a 90 minute film. The designs of the buildings are very authentic and look similar to real life Colombian small towns, and there are the colourful dresses the characters wear that are based off of Huila, a traditional Colombian dance dress.

Digging a little deeper into the movie leads to a realisation that the film is darker than the vibrant scenes portray. Abuela thinks that in order to pay back for the miracle that has been blessed to them, they must work, so all of the family helps around the town performing tasks that would otherwise take ages to complete. But the pressure put on the children because of this decision is immense. 

Luisa feels like she has to carry the burdens of everyone and fix everything, Isabela thinks that she has to be absolutely perfect otherwise she’ll let down the family, and Bruno is exiled from the family because his ability to give prophecies that always come true is seen as scary. Mirabel has little self-worth because of her lack of a gift, which can be seen by the way others constantly dismiss and neglect her.

 Along with that, the song “Waiting on a Miracle” in the movie talks about how Mirabel feels alone because she’s plain and she hasn’t gotten a gift like everyone else. You can really hear the pain in Mirabel’s voice as she sings about how special her family members are.

Luisa’s song “Surface Pressure” explains how she feels put under extreme pressure by others with lines such as “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service” and “Give it to your sister, it doesn’t hurt / And see if she can handle every family burden.” 

Isabela’s song “What Else Can I Do” shows Isabela increasing her powers as she explores them  without the expectation of what she creates being perfect. In the song she complains about how her perfect image is tiring and how she’d like to be more true.

Camilo should have been given more screen-time. His power is extremely interesting with the ability to change his features into those of anyone he’s seen, which he uses as more of a party trick to cheer up the people of the village. Despite this, he isn’t shown much throughout the movie. In total he gets about five minutes of showtime and doesn’t even have his own song: Dolores at least gets the ending of a song. 

Abuela puts so much focus on trying to prove that her family is worthy of the gifts they are given that she treats them all more like objects than like people, valuing their worth to the amount of use their gift can provide. Because of this, Mirabel has a perfect excuse to resent her family. She could have easily turned on them, either by not warning her family that Casita is crumbling or by fulfilling the part of Bruno’s prophecy which shows her standing in front of a broken home.

If you want to watch a colourful musical film that will most certainly cheer you up on a rainy day, then watch this.