Netflix’s latest Millie Bobby Brown offering is the genre-bending fantasy film “Damsel.” Based on Evelyn Skye’s novel of the same name, the film tries to tell a tale that boldly subverts the “Damsel in distress” trope. However, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and writer Dan Mazeau are not so bold when it comes to presenting the same tale on the screen.

The safe and risk-free filmmaking makes the film work, but that is about it. Having said that, it does offer run-of-the-mill fantasy fun while championing the queens and the princesses. The female lens on the fantasy genre is somewhat fresh, and for that alone, “Damsel” is a passable watch. The film’s titular damsel is Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown). A kind but resolute girl and the daughter of Lord Bayford (Ray Winstone). The Bayfords are not doing well, financially speaking. The lack of ration and other amenities pains Lord and Lady Bayford (Angela Bassett).

As if by divine intervention, Lord Bayford is visited by a helping hand. A marriage offer for Elodie from the Queen of a faraway country. The place is unknown to the Bayfords, but the promises of gold prove too lucrative to be turned down. Elodie does what she is told. Not just because she is a good daughter, but she is also a compassionate lady for her people. She understands the financial support her father needs. So begins her journey towards the destination of becoming the wife of a prince. Or so it seems. She, and her family, receives a warm welcome from Queen Isabelle (Robin Wright), during the beginning. But, gradually, both Lord Bayford and Lady Bayford start to learn the secrets of this marriage.

Damsel (2024) Movie Review
A still from “Damsel” (2024)

From her introductory scene itself, one could perceive the genre-bending nature of Millie Bobby Brown’s damsel character, Elodie. Brown has been at the forefront of Netflix’s major adventure stories where the woman not only can fight her own fight but also save the world. Whether it is Eleven in “Stranger Things” or the eponymous character in “Enola Holmes.” Her Elodie is no different. Casting Brown in that role sort of made that clear from the get-go. She is in her comfort zone while playing Elodie, and that reflects.

As mentioned before, the female perspective in the story is prominent and fresh. “Damsel” takes the classic fantasy story where a prince rescues the princess from the clutches of an evil dragon and upends it quite successfully. The prince here does not rescue Elodie. In fact, he pushes her towards the dragon. And the damsel, here, has to survive that. Apart from this strong and obvious change, the female lens is prevalent in every other aspect of the story. Our hero, Elodie, is a woman. Our villain, Queen Isabelle, is a woman. And the dragon, too.

It is as if ‘Damsel” says that the men make the mess, and the women try to solve it. Surely, the entire feud with the dragon is “man”-made. Lord Bayford is shown as both helpless and hopeless, who would sacrifice his daughter due to his inability to take care of the people. Prince Henry (Nick Robinson in a small role) does what his mother tells him to, and King Roderick is a mere prop in the whole story. No, it is driven by the likes of Elodie, Queen Isabelle, Lady Bayford, and, of course, the dragon, who is also a mother. Netflix releasing this on Women’s Day is not a coincidence, to say the least. And “Damsel” is a fun watch in that regard.

The film is not devoid of flaws. Director Fresnadillo does not take any risk and tells the story as safely as possible, relying heavily on Millie Bobby Brown and the CGI dragon. The CGI is good, but towards the end, especially during the final fight between Elodie and the dragon, some of the special effects start to become noticeable. As does the hurry to reach the finish line. The rushed ending includes the cliche “badass hero not looking back while destruction happens behind them” trope, too. But Millie Bobby Brown does nail that quite well.

Despite these flaws, “Damsel” would remain one of the better watches in the fantasy genre. It is largely due to the subversion that champions women and due to Millie Bobby Brown. Also, the 1998 American Godzilla-esque design of the dragon. Weirdly, that works for me.

Read More: Everything Coming to Netflix in March 2024

Damsel (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of Damsel (2024) Movie: Millie Bobby Brown, Ray Winstone, Nick Robinson, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Bassett, Robin Wright
Damsel (2024) Movie Genre: Fantasy/Adventure, Runtime: 1h 47m
Where to watch Damsel

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