#DirectedByWomen How Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time gave me the universe

Walt Disney Studios, the production company who have charmed children and adults with tales that prove that anything can be possible: a beauty can fall in love with a beast, a pumpkin can turn into a carriage, a snowman can sing and talk. Whilst all these films have utterly charmed me and been thoroughly enjoyable, a 2018 adaptation of a somewhat forgotten fantasy novel from 1963 has enchanted and moved me the most. Disney gave Academy Award nominated director Ava DuVernay the keys to the $100 million kingdom. A Wrinkle In Time is the first film of this budget to be helmed by a woman of colour. It is unfortunate and baffling that such feats are not a normality when the positive repercussions can be felt by the next generation of young mixed race girls and they can feel as though they can save the universe and love themselves the way our protagonist Meg Murry does by the end of the film. If I had had a film like this when I was Meg’s age or younger, it would have meant everything. Despite me being older than the intended demographic now, the film still has warmed my heart and soul beyond belief and eight months in to 2018, it is still my number one film of the year. Ava DuVernay and screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell have lifted a novel originally from a time where the hero being a girl of colour would be an absurdity and transported it to today where it can touch the hearts and minds of many.

When I first heard about Wrinkle (as I love to affectionately call it) all I knew was that it was a new Disney film and that Chris Pine was going to be in it, that factor alone was enough to peak interest. When I saw the first trailer, I was instantly enchanted by the bright colours, haunting Eurythmics cover, star studded cast, and straight away I was ready to watch yet another fantastic Disney film. I then went and purchased the book which I thoroughly enjoyed. The pieces were all forming in the puzzle of a Disney movie finally made for ME. As the release date drew closer and I waited for reviews with bated breath; in all honesty, my heart did sink reading and watching many of them. Everyone knows the feeling of a film not living up to its hype but there was something about Wrinkle that let me be undeterred. How could a film starring so many of my favourite actors, a score crafted by Ramin Djawadi, a lead actress who looks so much like my younger self and it being helmed by a highly influential female director known for telling the stories of those who rarely have their stories told, be something that I would not enjoy? Luckily for me, I was right and in my eyes the majority of critics were wrong. The day I finally got to see Wrinkle in cinemas was so exciting. The film made me feel immense joy, love, sadness and acceptance. In my eyes, that is a successful film. The amount of Oscar gold in the cabinet or fresh tomatoes in the fridge is one thing that could determine the merit of the film, but the representation and joy that can come from watching a film like Wrinkle, where the lead character is a smart but flawed mixed race girl who is a hero that saves the universe is a whole other thing that must not be overlooked.

For those who may not know, A Wrinkle In Time, an adaptation of the Madeline D’Engle novel tells the story of Meg Murry (Storm Reid), whose scientist father (Alex Murry played by Chris Pine) disappeared four years ago for an inexplicable reason. She is guided on a journey by three celestial beings known as Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). She goes on this magical adventure through fantastical words with her adopted brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) and classmate Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller). Due to classroom bullies, feelings of confusion and loneliness due to the loss of her father, Meg has unfortunately become guarded and insecure, firstly thinking that the whole thing is a trick played on her by her bully. Through her journey through the gorgeous green pastures of Uriel, the rocky terrains of Orion and the ‘planet of many faces’ Camazotz, she grows in confidence and realise that she deserves to be loved by others and herself, despite her flaws.

I cannot emphasise enough that these messages hold even more gravitas as Meg is a young girl of colour. She does not think that her hair is beautiful and is even presented with an image in the chilling final act of a version of herself where her hair is straightened, aligning more with the Eurocentric beauty norms of today. However, she accepts herself, performing a perfect and beautiful tesser (a tesser is a form of time travel done through just your mind), her hair curly, her glasses on her nose and glitter and bright colour everywhere whilst Djwadi’s gorgeous and moving track ‘Tesseract’ plays in the background. The self love that all young women of colour should feel is encapsulated into that one scene, showing that this joy and self belief is possible for everyone.

Despite the film having many elements that could market it predominantly to young girls, such as the female lead, the soundtrack of female artists and the most powerful characters in leadership roles being women, there are messages for boys in the film too. DuVernay, continuing her trademark talent of telling stories of unsung groups made the executive decision of changing the gender of the Happy Medium from a woman in the books to a man. Whilst that may seem insignificant at first glance, another change from book to screen that many fans dislike, in the words of Zack Galifianakis himself: ‘It’s nice for young boys to see that it’s okay to have a sensitive side. That vulnerability means that they’re stronger. I come from a very masculine upbringing, a lot of people do. I love the way I was raised, but looking back…we need balance. It’s time for balance.’ The role of the Happy Medium brings a new take on masculinity that diverges from the highly stereotyped and simplified roles of men and women of children’s entertainment past. I see Wrinkle as part of a new era of children’s entertainment that does not treat children as fools, but as intelligent beings that wish to learn when they consume media rather than to just be forced to gawk at bright colours. Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time has brought an older children’s book out of the shadows and in that, brought many children and adults alike out too, teaching us that there is magic in the world and in ourselves.

 

by Olivia Asante-Siaw

Olivia is an English Language student currently residing in the North West of England. Some of her favourite pastimes include drinking tea and listening to film scores. Her favourite films often revolve around cute innocent bears such as Paddington and Christopher Robin, or strong women such as Wonder Woman. Olivia can be found on Letterboxd @teamedward

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