Elemental – Film Review

In a world consisting of the basic life elements of fire, water, air and wood, Pixar’s Elemental is a cleverly crafted unexpected tale of identity, family and the migrant experience. It is a beautiful tale from the perspective of Ember and her attempts to fit in and ultimately fulfil her family’s expectations. Despite the early marketing’s emphasis solely on the elements and a burgeoning love story, it is the father-daughter bond and the confrontation of prejudice that elevates the storytelling beautifully. Elemental is joyful, heartbreaking and aspirational and will easily resonate with children and adults alike.

Fire always represents that danger and the other elements are certainly conscious of this when Ember’s family move into town. Equally, whenever Ember feels confident enough to leave her protected environment within the fire world to view the great outdoors, the other elements distance themselves quickly. Similarly, there are visible signs denying entry to fire people and other people shut their doors when the fire people try to branch their horizons. Such scenes are reminiscent of being ‘othered’ and encountering prejudices and it is a theme that Pixar continues to reference across the film despite its deceptively simple coming of age narrative, given Ember lives with her parents. Ember’s family run a shop, which she is expected to inherit only when she is able to control her furious temper. The impact of the full unleashing of Ember’s temper does mean that elements such as wood may be charred if they stay too close or gaskets may blow literally as her brimstone’s unleashed.

However, this does not deter Wade, a water person, literally known to turn on the waterworks when encountering some of life’s despair. It is not a typical meet cute nor a match made in heaven for Ember and Wade. Indeed there are several repercussions for their union which lends a degree of depth to the film. As such, the marketing employed for this film may have done the film a large disservice in focusing solely on the aesthetics, stunning as they may be.

Instead, Elemental in seemingly highlighting a traditional love interest has unearthed a nuanced tale. Through Ember and Wade’s eyes, their differences could potentially result in their own extinction should they become too close as fire and water are those extremely immiscible elements. Still, some risks may still be worth taking as Ember is exposed to a whole new world, in Element City, of colourful elements and a freedom away from her dutiful life.

Ember and Wade in Elemental
Ember and Wade in Elemental

Cleverly, Elemental introduces those class issues too through Ember and Wade’s developing relationship. Wade’s family represents that affluent family, who all eat together and have uncles that produce water paintings. It is a far cry from Ember’s humble beginnings which reflects that experience of many arriving in America and other countries with cultures dissimilar to their own. Whilst Wade’s family resembles the tolerant liberal family who attempt to find a common point of reference but only offend, Ember is asked when she first learnt the language, which is the type of unconscious bias that many will identify with. Ember’s family, however, in living through the prejudice of the migrant experience remain suspicious of any interlopers.

As such, Ember feels unable to introduce Wade to her family knowing that their interaction would be met with disapproval. Above all, Ember does not wish to be that burden or bring shame to her parents, especially her father and therefore feels that inward pressure to obey and maintain the traditions. This notion of cultural shame and honour is an element that Elemental highlights as Ember continuously performs to meet expectations and ignores her own underlying needs and wants to her detriment. Elemental will therefore draw those parallels for others as the first generation within a family of migrants. Their families may have struggled to build a life and provide opportunities for their family, however there may be that conflict within the younger generation to embrace the culture of the new country instead of maintaining all traditions.

This father-daughter bond and cultural expectations may surprise, within an animated film of this nature, however it is the emotional heart of Elemental. It provokes many moments where those tissues will be needed as that concept of respect and honouring your parents remains firmly embedded and will enable many to relate to both Ember’s parents and her own predicament. Indeed, these themes may be heavily emphasised during the character discourse in the film but this does not detract from the beautiful development of the familial relationship which permits that empathy towards Ember.

Elemental is a surprisingly, compelling film, with excellent graphics, and has more heart and conviction than many recently released animated films. Unfortunately, the marketing misfire may mean that this film does not receive the higher level of audience viewing that it deserves. However, it is an impressive, emotional entry in the Disney Pixar canon and encourages the confidence to be our authentic self so as not to disappoint others and ultimately ourselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Follow on Feedly
Writer Mojola Akinyemi has, in Imaginary Natural Beings as her…
Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_riaIcon_order" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 165 Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_inhaIcon_order" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 166 Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_mastodonIcon_order" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 177 Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_mastodon_display" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 276 Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_snapchat_display" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 285 Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_reddit_display" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 282 Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_fbmessenger_display" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 279 Warning: Undefined array key "sfsi_tiktok_display" in /customers/e/f/e/franglais27tales.com/httpd.www/wp-content/plugins/ultimate-social-media-icons/libs/controllers/sfsi_frontpopUp.php on line 273

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)