A favourite from childhood. The film manages to overcome a predictable 'wish fulfilment' narrative, as well as some over-earnest performances from the young cast, to present a quite charming & affective story that still seems to resonate with the modern feminist ideology. The use of magical realism is genuinely enchanting, but it's the unconventional imagery of Cuarón & his team that leaves the greatest impression.
If Cuarón comes across as a choosier Spielberg, then Emmanuel Lubezki is his John Williams. The story is as old as stone, and the acting is far from a masterclass, but the richly sumptuous set design and photography are stunning. As with Children of Men, it's the little details that are the mark of the director: I loved the black balloon rising forebodingly in the background as Miss Minchin breaks the news to Sara.
When you are a kid, you enjoy this film despite the very Hollywood like story. When you get older you see the flaws in the acting (except Bron, and Cunningham), the plot (eg.change of setting), and the turnout of events (oh, the father happens to live next door to the school). If you want to see a more gripping and realilistic retelling, see the 1939 Shirley Temple film, or the 1986 BBC adaptation.
"I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us. Didn't your father ever tell you that? Didn't he?"
While launching it I didn't know it was an adaptation of the eponymous book! Thus kind of a live version of the mega cult animé Princess Sarah \o/. Too bad it's way too much telefilmesque in the form ...