Frozen has finally come out in UK theaters, which means that I’ve finally been able to see it. I’m a bit of a Disney fangirl, and so I was incredibly excited to see this one, despite the pre-release criticism of some of the animators choices.
Luckily, it didn’t disappoint. It’s wonderful.
This review contains spoilers.
First things first, this is a Disney movie about sisters. Anna does have a couple of love interests, but the relationship between Anna and Elsa is the main focus of the story, to the extent that the act of true love required to save Anna at the end of the movie isn’t “true love’s kiss,” as everyone initially assumes, but an act of sacrifice to save her sister’s life. In return, Elsa discovers that, far from needing to repress her feelings and lock herself away in order to control her magic, it can be controlled and thawed using her love for her sister. As a result, the “happily ever after” finale of the movie isn’t a wedding but a celebration where the two sisters get to be together and open their lives to the world again.
Elsa is also a fascinating character from a feminist perspective. As a child, she’s loving and carefree, but she’s taught that her magic is a dangerous, fearful thing, and as a result, she’s made to lock herself and all her feelings away. She’s told that she must be an ice queen, emotionally detached, without any friends or connections, because her emotions are dangerous to herself and to others. Yet, as the movie explores, this is an incredibly harmful approach to her powers, because it leaves Elsa completely unable to control them when they do emerge. She doesn’t intend to freeze the entire kingdom, and, as she cries to Anna, she has no idea how to undo it. She’s always been told to control it by denying its existence, so she is left without any actual control over its consequences. When the movie ends not just by restoring summer but by showing Elsa controlling and using her powers for fun, turning the palace courtyard into a snowy ice rink, it declares that this lack of self acceptance was precisely the problem, and that the ending can only be happy if Elsa embraces her feelings and her powers once again.
And, of course, the movie treats us to the amazing song Let It Go, performed by Idina Menzel, which I just want to listen to on repeat for the rest of eternity. If most Disney songs give their heroines an “I Want” song, where she sings wistfully of her desire for adventure or freedom or true love, Frozen builds on a smaller Reprise effort in Tangled to create an “I’ve taken what I want, and it’s awesome” song. It’s a song about embracing her own powers and feelings, about leaving behind her concern for other people’s opinions and becoming free to simply be herself. Far from being a song about hopes and dreams, it’s an empowering anthem, as Elsa declares “this is who I am, and I refuse to hide it any more.”
Of course, the movie isn’t perfect. Beyond Elsa and Anna, there are pretty much no speaking female characters in the movie (only their quickly lost mother and a troll in one scene), despite there being many dignitaries, soldiers, enemies, and a talking snowman along the way. Populating the world with women and people of color is just as important as giving them stories of their own. But that said, and despite criticisms of the animation choices before the movie was released, Frozen is overall a fantastic, emotional and empowering movie, full of cute characters, emotion and one of the best songs Disney has ever created. And all focussing on two sisters and their broken relationship. It didn’t quite unseat Tangled as my favorite Disney movie (sorry, Frozen), but it came pretty darn close.
Now I’m just wondering when I can see it again.