By Victoria Lendon
The family Madrigal. The word means “a part song for several voices” where each singer has a separate musical line. It’s the perfect name for our movie’s family. Each of the magical characters plays their own part, although our hero Mirabel is quickly established as being the only one without a power.
There’s soon a lot of talk about perfection, with the youngest child (Antonio) about to have his ceremony to discover his power. Side note, Antonio’s adorable. Anyway, there’s a very clever contrast between the brightness of the colours in the scene beforehand (such as the lovely natural sunlight in the kitchen), and the gloomier tones that we see when Mirabel is in her and Antonio’s room, coaxing him out from under the bed.
This might relate to Mirabel’s sadness about her own failed ceremony, and her disconnection from the rest of the magical family, who each have their own special rooms. This disconnection is further emphasised when the rest of the family have their photograph taken in Antonio’s room without her.
The movie brilliantly honours Columbia throughout. For example, the song Columbia My Heart¸ plus all the animals which fill Antonio’s rainforest room. These animals, such as the toucan Pico, capybaras, jaguar, tapir and more, can all be found in Columbia. His room itself is actually based on the Chocó Rainforest in Northwest Columbia.
Everyone is happy that Antonio’s ceremony went well, until Mirabel notices Casita (the house) beginning to crack. The candle flickers, and so do the magical doors which house the family’s rooms. Classically, everything looks fine when Abuela goes to look, and no-one believes her.
Now, I know we don’t talk about Bruno, but he was also an outsider in the family. We learn that he disappeared, and that his power is to see the future.
Something I love about this movie is the depth of the characters. We realise Abuela is being harsh because she’s scared; she is seen begging the candle to protect her family and protect their miracle. Luisa feels intense pressure to be strong for her family, as we see in the song Surface Pressure (which reached number 4 in the charts for a reason). We also find out later that ‘perfect’ Isabella is sick of having to live up to her image.
Before that, though, Mirabel finds her uncle Bruno’s vision in his room, which shows her stood in front of the broken family home (insert a Scooby-doo ‘ru-oh’).
The prophecy Mirabel finds gets in the way of the Guzmán’s and Madrigal’s dinner, where Mariano Guzmán is supposed to propose to Isabella. Although chaos is caused by the rest of the family telling each other what she found, Mirabel is again blamed. Then she finds Bruno, who has been living in the walls. Turns out he’s not a bad guy.
He repeats ‘knock, knock, knock, knock on wood’ and is very superstitious. This, coupled with the fact that he sees often negative visions of the future, suggests he’s an example of the mental illness Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This makes sense, given that most of the characters problems are tied to the perfectionism Abuela enforces and suffers from herself (probably due to the death of her husband).
OCD is often tied to perfectionism, as well as a heightened sense of responsibility, which again would make sense given that the miracle is supposed to serve the entire community. This leaves the Madrigal family members with a lot of pressure. It would be great if his character was represented in a less stereotypical way, but he is redeemed and empathised with, and it’s great to see even an imperfect representation of mental illness in a Disney film.
Speaking of representation, let’s talk about how this film represents immigrant communities. Generational trauma and how first-generation immigrants cope with this is shown through the characters of Luisa, Mirabel and Isabella. For example, Violeta Sandoval (who immigrated from Mexico at age 4) spoke to Buzzfeed and explained how “Isabella is the face of the family”.
The trauma itself is related to colonisation, which forced Abuela out of her home and led to her husband being murdered. Anthony Guevara told Buzzfeed that Abuela’s harsh treatment of Mirabel is because “she’s afraid of losing what her husband sacrificed to give her".
Not only does this movie give important representation of how immigrant families can struggle, it’s also a Latino story, told by and for Latino people. For example, there are no villains, as most Western stories have; there is a family made up of individuals with their strengths and flaws, learning to heal from trauma and rebuild relationships.
In the end Mirabel brings her family back together, and the community helps them to rebuild their home.
Encanto is beautifully animated, with great music and a heart-warming story. It’s also funny, and a great representation of Latin-American talent, and gorgeous magical realism.