“Empathy doesn’t exist without a little bravery” – Pete Sohn
No one tells that story of bravery better than Ember, the Fire Girl, as she navigates through her life in Element City in Pixar’s new movie Elemental. Here water, air, earth and fire come to life, living amongst each other but separate with very distinct differences. When Ember meets Wade, a Water Boy, she knows elements can not mix. Even a touch can be detrimental, holding a hand and even worse, a hug, is out of the question. As their friendship develops we are reminded that differences can be complementary. According to the star of the movie, Leah Lewis, “at the end of the day…we are composed of all the different people that we’ve come across” our interactions with those around us shape us into who we grow to be.
Wade, played by Mamoudou Athie, comes onto the scene as Ember is struggling between taking over the family business or pursuing her talents and following her dreams. While most coming of age stories portray this as an all or nothing predicament where the heroine will either disappoint their family to pursue their passions or disappoint themselves to continue a tradition Ember may have more options. As Wade and Ember’s friendship grows they learn that their differences may not be so different and as songwriter Lauv put it ” the balance between like the ability to honor and respect tradition while also going and following your dreams” resonates through Ember’s journey.
Prepare to have your heart strings pulled in true to Pixar fashion as the movie is full of heart. The actors playing Ember and Wade identified with their characters providing Ember and Wade a feeling of authenticity. Mamoudou shared that the story of Elemental resonates with his own story “a hundred percent.” His family came to the United States when he was 5 months old. His dad was a diplomat with two masters degrees and left it all behind to start afresh with his family. He expressed feeling a debt to his parents that as he grew older began to feel more like a gift. Leah agreed that she felt appreciation for her parents and that can be seen as Ember evolves in the movie and realizes the sacrifices her parents have made for her. Leah elaborates by talking about her own evolution, and like Ember, working through her anger and frustration and turning it into something creative. This connection with their characters brings audiences to tears in the emotional sequence between Ember and Wade. Even our 5 year old felt the weight and emotion of what the characters go through in the third act.
While it is emotional it would not be a Pixar film if it was not also funny. Described as “fun and funny and ultimately a beautiful and emotional film about connecting with people who are different from ourselves” Elemental does an amazing job of bringing the elements to life on screen. Director Pete Sohn shared that the elements had more than double the controls normally used in a Pixar film. The result is stunning elements that come to life on screen and majestic landscapes throughout the movie. Watching the Elemental characters move throughout the film is just as moving as their dialogue and interactions.
Overall, we found Elemental to be true to Pixar story telling; emotional, funny, stunning visual effects and a story worth watching. At it’s roots Elemental is a story about connection. Connection with family, connection with new friends, and connection with people that might initially be a little different.
Elemental is now in theaters.