Cinderella’s Stoic virtues: Courage and kindness

I took my wife and daughters to see the new live-action Cinderella movie yesterday. I’m no movie critic, but I thought it was really good.

It’s visually sumptuous. The costume design, the sets, the locations, the sweeping camera movements all were dazzling and crafted on an epic scale.

Kenneth Branagh, the Shakespearean actor, directed and played the story straight and with a classic, elegant style. No clever updates. It’s in essence the same Cinderella story you know from the original Disney animated feature. But it’s done so well.

The acting performances are solid. Lily James as Cinderella lights up the screen. She’s earnest and charming and quietly strong without being sappy sweet. The prince is not a bore or a boor. The ailing king is endearing. The wicked stepmother, Cate Blanchett, is suitably cruel but finishes by coming across as pitiable.

It’s not high art, but it’s a worthwhile story, especially for my young daughters. Early in the story Cinderella’s dying mother exhorts her to always “have courage and be kind.” That mantra gets repeated throughout. It could seem simplistic, but the character solidly embodies those traits.

When Cinderella gets banished to the attic, she could have become a teary-eyed damsel in distress in typical princess fairy tale style. But this Cinderella embraces her fate with a twinkle of optimism and hope and makes the best of it. She deals with her cruel treatment and bad fortune with similar fortitude throughout the story without coming across as weak and woeful. She exhibits Stoic-like acceptance of all that happens outside of her control and remains kind in spite of the cruelty she endures.

“Have courage and be kind”, simple and obvious as it is, is a decent motto for anyone, aspiring princess or not.

No one is fearless, but we can all show courage by taking action in spite of our fears. And life is too short to be short on kindness.

Four thumbs up for Cinderella from me and my three princesses.