I saw Disney•Pixar’s “BRAVE” almost a few weeks ago, and loved it. I didn’t think much of what I made of the story until I read Joely Sue Burkhart’s review of it at the end of that same week. Since then, I’ve realized something pretty major.
“BRAVE” isn’t really a story about Merida. It’s actually a story about her mother.
There are movie spoilers here, so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want the spoilers, then come back and read this after you’ve seen the movie. But if you have seen it, then I’m curious to see how my thoughts compare with what you took away from the movie, or if they make any sense at all outside of my own head.
So… the main character. In any good story (and in my opinion Pixar creates great stories) the main character undergoes major change. Look at Woody in “Toy Story” (ALL 3 of them… major character growth and changes). Carl in “UP.” You can follow the character arc through the story.
So in “Brave,” you would expect Merida to be the character undergoing the biggest change. And yet, she isn’t. Her mother is the one who changes the most, who grows the most.
The closest I can come to the character situation in “Brave” is “Finding Nemo.” I would argue, however, that Nemo changes more than Merida does. Also, Nemo and Marlin both have POV scenes in this movie, making it more of a joint-POV/two-main-character movie.
Okay, granted, at the end of the movie Merida apologizes. But after that, when we see the montage of “look what’s different” there’s precious little of Merida being a good daughter and princess. The only scene to that effect I can remember was when she was showing the potential suitors to their ships… and that had the ulterior motive of getting them away from her. I remember scenes of Merida and the queen going horseback riding, and of Queen Elinor’s appearance changing from always proper to a bit more comfortable and carefree. I don’t remember anything to show a compromise from Merida. My mom reminded me about a scene where Merida works on embroidery with her mom, so I guess that’s something. On the other hand, it obviously didn’t make too much of an impact on me, since I didn’t remember it on my own.
At any rate, the Queen is the one with the most to lose. She is the one who has the biggest character change, and who risks the most at the end when Mor’du attacks.
“Brave” is her story. Merida is just the narrator.