Elemental (2023) Movie Review: The medium of animation has greatly enabled anthropomorphism in storytelling, allowing an easily communicable execution of metaphors pertaining to our sociopolitical reality. While these metaphors embedded in the narratives driven by anthropomorphic characters aren’t cryptic, they remain prone to misinterpretation. Especially by the audience they cater to, the children, who may fail to translate their learnings into real-world behavior because they are not necessarily equipped to construe the metaphors. To put into perspective, Inside Out (2015) had many great things to say about the complexity of emotions and the coming-of-age experience.

However, to mitigate the aforementioned problem or to ensure that even the youngest mind can take something out of the film, it functioned around a central motive. And it was to normalize the experience of sadness for children. Elemental (2023), too, has considerable nuance. When you read into it, you find it is essentially about the migrant experience. However, in its most diluted reading, it continues to be a film that normalizes the experience of diversity; of appearance, identity, ways, and ambitions. Elemental is a sweet little surprise from Pixar that champions love with its imaginative designs.

Elemental is located in Element City, a city inhabited by anthropomorphic elements, namely water, earth, and air. The compatibility of the three elements allows them to cohabit and build a world for themselves. However, fire elements are not welcome in the city due to the perceived risks they pose to the existence of other elements and how the exclusionary designs of the settlement cannot accommodate them. Bernie and Cinder are the first of the fire elements to arrive and experience xenophobia.

They settle on the outskirts of the city, presumably ghettoized in the beginning. Then the tribe grows with continued waves of migration and settlement until fire elements establish their own Firetown. Ember, the daughter of Bernie and Cinder, grows up in Firetown, aspiring to inherit her father’s utility shop someday, by which he had made a name for himself. As fate would have it, Ember meets Wade, a water element, and a romantic bond develops. In this world marked by xenophobia rooted in differences, unequal access to resources, and traditional values in conflict with modern ones, a relationship between water and fire won’t work. But the film exists to say that it can and it must.

Elemental situates itself in the everyday experience of diversity. It asserts that diversity is not merely a phenomenon we have to embrace but also that diversity is elemental to all existence itself. Humans have a tendency to homogenize, for homogenization leads to a sense of faux security. People derive their self-worth from their identity. And therefore, all aspects of identity they inherit from society are celebrated to be a part of the community. These aspects aren’t those that people create for themselves, as such aspects characterize their individuality, taking them away from the community.

Elemental (2023) Movie Review | High On Films
A still from Elemental (2023)

The pursuit is self-centric as people want to inherit most aspects of their identity from society to never feel alone in a social space. Still, at the same time, they strive to create their individualizing aspects such that they are visibly differentiated from the collective. However, when socially derived aspects reveal to be heterogenous, the sense of a collective based on the idea of homogeneity is lost. Differences appear like threats, and people come to defensive positions, which gradually leads them to the offensive.

For example, the increasing homogenization of Indian society under the current right-wing regime is a culmination of numerous offenses. But any such effort is futile because diversity is not merely a feature of society but its fuel. The life of society originates from the diversity of its members.  On the other hand, the life of its members originates from the diversity of its constituents.

With its heart in the right place, Elemental efficiently conveys that a diverse set of elements interact with each other to make life possible. It is foundational to the human condition. And therefore, it emerges as a sweet romantic drama between two characters perceived as misfits by society.

There are many little things to unpack in a film about elements with human qualities. At the same time, it is not very complex and layered either. Its strength is in its simplicity. A simple narrative is built into an imaginative design that manages to evoke curiosity, wonder, and genuine laughter in many moments. That being said, the film lacks the precision and intricate beauty of earlier Pixar films such as Coco (2017) or Soul (2020).

Elemental is the outcome of an idea rooted in the most personal turning out to be the most creative. The Ghibli admirer in me was waiting for Elemental’s nod to Howl’s Moving Castle’s Calcifer, but one can only expect so much. Nevertheless, Elemental is a feel-good watch for your time out with family over the weekends.

Read More: Everything Coming to Disney+ in July 2023

Elemental (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia
Elemental (2023) Movie Cast: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen
Elemental (2023) Movie Other Details: Genre – Kids & family/Comedy | Runtime – 1h 43m
Where to watch Elemental

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