[Disclaimer: Plot spoiler warning!]
This movie was a delight, with an original story set in beautiful Scandinavia, complete with some unexpected twists and elements not usually seen in a Disney movie. Elsa is a princess born with the unusual ability to turn anything into ice, a skill she develops while playing with her little sister Anna. However, she discovers that she loses control of her talent when she becomes overemotional. This results in an accident in which Anna’s brain is frozen. The magical gnomes are able to unfreeze her brain but must remove Anna’s memory of Elsa’s ability. The overcautious King and Queen seclude the royal family and keep Elsa locked up, even keeping her away from Anna.
As Elsa attempts to keep her ability restrained, she becomes both physically and emotionally inaccessible. Anna, deprived of her sister’s companionship, longs for love and human camaraderie. She thinks she has found it the day that the palace gates are open for Elsa’s coming of age and crowning. But this day teaches Elsa that by keeping her emotions and powers completely restrained for so long, she has completely lost control of both. She escapes into the mountains, where she builds her own ice castle and feels free once again, unwittingly unleashing a powerful ice storm on her people. When Anna follows her and tries to get her to stop the ice storm, Elsa once again loses control of her emotions and powers, sending ice through Anna’s heart. Thus the movie teaches the seemingly contradictory concept that we must express our emotions while also controlling them.
The magical gnomes tell Anna that the damage can only be undone through an act of true love. She assumes that this must be romantic love, but herein lies some of the movie’s surprises. First, she finds that what she thought was “love at first sight” was deceiving (a lesson not usually taught in animated movies). Second, the love that Anna is looking for to save her does not come from a romantic admirer. Rather, it comes from within, as she risks everything to save Elsa, and both their hearts are thawed. In the end, the sisters save each other from the damage that was done by keeping secrets.
Whereas animated films tend to portray heroes as attractive and villains as ugly and scary looking, this film teaches children that people are not always what they seem. Another very different element of this film is that the characters are neither purely evil nor purely good. The complicated character of Elsa is her own enemy in this film, depicting the internal struggle that is part of the human condition*. The love of her sister is what helps her to use her unusual power for good in the end. Thus the message of the film is a very Christian one, calling us to conquer evil by loving one another!
“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”, admonishes St. Paul (Romans 12:21). And the First Letter of John encourages us: “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His Love has been perfected in us” (I John 4:12). When Anna gives of herself freely she allows a pure love to operate through her, healing her wounds. Then, when Elsa opens up her heart to allow Anna to reach her with this love, this unlocks the good in her to overcome the sinful part of her nature that is harming others.
Because of the romantic elements and the focus on love between sisters, this film will primarily attract a female audience. However, the snow monster, talking snowman, and talking reindeer will appeal to young boys. The unexpected turns in the plot will keep adult viewers interested as well. Altogether this is a beautifully produced movie with an original story that is appropriate for families.
*The scriptural basis for the internal struggle of good and evil can be found in these words from the apostle St. Paul:
“For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not wish to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” - Romans 7:14-25