Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015) reveals what makes a woman truly beautiful. Cinderella (Lily James) has a beautiful body and face, but she also has a beautiful character and personality that sets her apart from all her peers. This is manifested in nine virtues: love, courage, kindness, contentment, selflessness, diligence, generosity, humility, and forgiveness. An important theme in the film is how people respond to beauty: While the Prince (Richard Madden) is swept away by Cinderella, the Stepmother and her daughters are repelled by her.
Cinderella is a paragon of virtue. These virtues were instilled in her by her parents, in particular by her mother (Hayley Atwell) who taught her, “Have courage and be kind.” As an orphan, Cinderella’s emotional strength and determination keeps her spirit from being broken, and she shows kindness and love to her Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) who constantly mistreats her. She is selfless, offering her bedroom to her sisters, and finds contentment living alone in the attic. Her diligence is seen in the household chores she does in obedience to her Stepmother, while Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) are both idle. Cinderella is generous, sharing her scraps of food with the mice, and giving an old woman (Helena Bonham Carter) something to drink and eat. She is humble, never presuming that the Prince would choose her to be his bride. Finally, despite being wronged by her Stepmother in countless ways, she forgives her. These nine virtues make Cinderella more beautiful than anyone in the film. If she did not have physical beauty, she would still be beautiful, for she has a beautiful character and personality.
Cinderella’s beauty is a force that either attracts or repels. The Prince falls in love at first sight with her, drawn at first to her physical appearance, but ultimately by who she is as a person. In contrast, the Stepmother and her daughters have no love for Cinderella at all. For the Stepmother, Cinderella is a reminder of the husband that she lost, and a threat to her ambition to have Anastasia or Drisella marry the Prince. More importantly, the Stepmother and her daughters are repelled by Cinderella because they do not possess her many virtues. Everything that she is, they are not. They are unloving, unkind, selfish, boastful, and lazy. Because they do not love virtue, they do not love Cinderella. Her beautiful character shines a light on the ugliness that is in their hearts.
Cinderella reveals the power of female beauty. A woman with physical beauty is a wonder to behold, but a woman with a beautiful character and personality is one to be praised. The Stepmother and her daughters have physical beauty, but it will not last. Physical beauty fades with the passing of time. In contrast, when Cinderella grows old, she will still be beautiful, for she is beautiful within. Her beauty will last a lifetime.