2015 Certificate: u

Synopsis

The enduring tale of the oppressed scullery maid who defies her evil step-mother to snare a prince gets a sumptuous live-action run out from director Kenneth Branagh. Downton Abbey's Lily James winsomely plays Cinders but it's Cate Blanchett as the villainous Lady Tremaine who's the dark star of the show. When her beloved father dies, Cinders finds herself at the whim of her evil stepmother and her vilely self-obsessed daughters but resolutely sticks to her real mum's advice: 'Have courage and be kind..."

Director

  • Kenneth Branagh

Cast

  • Lily James

  • Cate Blanchett

  • Helena Bonham Carter

  • Holliday Grainger

  • Sophie McShera

  • Richard Madden

Review

It's been well over a hundred years since Cinderella got the celluloid treatment in French director George Melies' 1899 adaptation Cendrillon.

Since then the soot-flecked scullery maid has been played by silent era legend Mary Pickford, toon queen Betty Boop (in her only colour appearance), national institution Julie Andrews, updated in 2004 with Hilary Duff and probably most famously related by Uncle Walt with ​Disney's 1950 animation.

This good-looking, live-action version from director Kenneth Branagh resolutely sticks with the popular version of Charles Perrault's story and derives its wattage from a gamine performance by Lily James as Cinders and an eye-flashingly monstrous show from Cate Blanchett, channelling Bette Davis as her evil stepmom.

After the death of her mum and the subsequent worldly exit of her now remarried dad (Chaplin), Ella - now bitchily re-christened Cinderella - finds herself at the whim of stepmother Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and her two spitefully self-obsessed daughters (Grainger, McShera).

Banished to the attic during the night and cellar during the day, the only company Cinders happily keeps is with the house mice...until she chances upon a handsome hunter while out in the woods (Game Of Thrones' Madden). Unbeknown to her, he's also the prince.

The next time they meet is at a ball thrown by his ailing father (Jacobi) with the intention of finding the boy a bride...but the king's duplicitous counsellor the Grand Duke (Skarsgaard) is already in cahoots with the power-hungry Lady Tremaine.

Branagh's solid retelling is elevated by some stunning set-pieces, particularly the scene where Cinders' Fairy Godmother (Bonham-Carter displaying rather more decolletage than we're used to) transforms the mice into horses, garden lizards into footmen and a pumpkin into a gilt carriage.

The costumes warrant their own appreciation in Vogue, particularly Blanchett's villainess collection, and there's some nice comedy lines delivered by Rob Brydon (who we could have done with more of) as a royal portrait artist.

At the end of the day - well, the last stroke of midnight - it's a solidly entertaining take on a familiar story and one which fits a new generation of fans as snugly as a crystal slipper.

Tim Evans