In ‘Anthem’ Leonard Cohen sang ‘there is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in.’ These lines have been adopted as an inspirational saying by many but they also reflect the idea that it is often the imperfections that make an object beautiful. Perhaps, the same can be said about the flaws in Disney’s latest big budget children’s film A Wrinkle in Time.
Teenage Meg Murray (Storm Reid) is struggling following her scientist father’s disappearance four years earlier. Isolated and lonely, Meg’s grief has made as a social outcast who is out of sync with her peers and losing ground academically. Dr Alex Murray (Chris Pine) was working on a new form of space travel that allows him to cross the universe by ‘wrinkling’ space and time. However, he has also been captured by a powerful evil which is spreading across the universe. Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace and friend Calvin set out to rescue him with the help of three ancient and peculiar celestial beings: Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon).
This film is unashamedly a big budget children’s film that wants to tell a story for a younger audience without the cynicism that often features in movies aimed at a younger demographic. Based on the much-loved novel by Madeline L’Engle, this is a film that conjures fantastical worlds while telling a story about family.
Fans of the book may find that this script compromises too much by omitting large sections of the narrative and much of the religious element in favour of a more open and somewhat fuzzy spirituality. Your tolerance for spirituality may determine how you respond to the film’s message about the individual’s place within and connection to the cosmic order. In this film, bravery follows from the recognition of fear and an acknowledgement of love and self-acceptance to become the best version of yourself and, therefore, a warrior for the light.
This film does keep faith with the fantastical elements of L’Engle’s story and its discussion of concepts from philosophy, literature, religion and science. However, it does so at the expense of the Murray family dynamics which, while emotional, do lack some depth that would help people unfamiliar with the source material to follow the story. As a result, the film stumbles and loses some momentum, particularly in its final third.
Having said that, director Ava DuVernay has crafted a vivid take on L’Engle’s peculiar vision and one that is visually much brighter than many recent big budget outings. This film is a riot of colours from the off-world inhabitants to the costumes and make up, particularly for the three mystical beings who wear lots of sparkles and metallics paired with rich fabrics and textures to convey their otherworldly status. The main cast give fine performances in scenes that could have come across a silly with less committed work.
Meg’s quest as the hero is not only to rescue her father but to learn to accept herself, faults and all. A Wrinkle in Time is a fantasy adventure that will not be to everyone’s tastes. However, its failings should not distract from its ambition to inspire a sense of wonder through creative and empathetic storytelling that prioritises joy and idealism about people’s better natures. My young companion found this film to be a captivating and emotional experience. There is much to admire in A Wrinkle in Time, despite its faults. Eimear Dodd
A Wrinkle in Time is out on wide release.