WRITTEN BY: Chris Weitz
DIRECTED BY: Kenneth Branagh
STARRING: Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden
RATING: 3.5 stars

Ella (Lily James) is a happy young girl despite the death of her mother. But when her father suddenly dies too, leaving her in the care of her evil stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and equally vicious stepsisters (Sophie McShera and Holliday Grainger), Ella's life turns to turmoil and she is forced to be a servant in her own home. When she meets the mysterious prince Kit (Richard Madden), Ella's life starts to take an unexpected turn.

The story of Cinderella is so well known and has been retold in various ways over the years. I was expecting a re-imagining of the tale in this latest film, but instead, we basically got the same old story. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The film is visually stunning, including gorgeous costumes and effects that bring the fairytale to life. James has a girl-next-door vibe about her that makes her portrayal of Cinderella relatable. Madden makes a dashing Prince Charming and has great chemistry with James. The scene in which they first meet in the forest is especially sweet. An important aspect of the film is that the lovebirds are likeable. Some other versions have portrayed him as dull and her as stupid. But this film has them both being played as strong, smart and kind, although still a little naive. Blanchett is gloriously wicked and never falls into the trap of over-acting. Meanwhile, McShera and Grainger are both funny and silly. Helena Bonham Carter is also delightful as the Fairy Godmother. We have always known that Cinderella has plot holes and does nothing for feminism, but that does not make it any less enjoyable. Cinderella pushes the notion that all we need to live a good life is courage and kindness, and it is a lovely sentiment. Cinderella is a magical fairytale and sometimes we all need that kind of fantasy.