Maya Angelou once said, “the desire to reach the stars is ambitious, the desire to reach hearts is wise.” Following her fierce, critically acclaimed documentary 13th (2016), about the intersections of race and mass incarceration, director Ava DuVernay shifts genres into the world of the big-budgeted children’s film. Her latest feature A Wrinkle in Time has an ambitious incline to reach the stars and, in the process, she wisely reaches the hearts of audiences.
The film’s context has made a gossipy splash in the ever-changing tide pool that is Hollywood. In a post-Weinstein scandal era, women, particularly women of colour, are gaining a deserved platform, and Hollywood seems to be openly parting ways for new stories to be told. A Wrinkle in Time fits into this box of exciting achievements for inclusion, because it is the first time a woman of colour has ever been given a budget of $100 million (close to £80 million) to make a film about the story of a triumphant young bi-racial girl.
Based on the quirky and beloved novel by Madeleine L’Engle, the film follows the story of a seemingly difficult young girl, Meg (Storm Reid), who is struggling with the disappearance of her father four years prior. Meg, along with her little brother Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin, who is rather static as a character, go on an incredible adventure, traveling through space and time to an unknown yet magical place in the universe to find their father. The children are accompanied by Mrs Whatsit (an overly cartoonish Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kailing) and of course Oprah Winfrey as Mrs Which, the wise leader of the three women.
The film dazzles with moments of great visual vigor, showing off the massive budget and the crew’s creative play time around New Zealand. And the story itself, while painfully uncomplicated (introducing many loose threads, with no movement towards resolve), is packed-full of lessons for young viewers.
DuVernay never shies away from explicitly hammering in her ideological project; Meg’s school and home are both lined with portraits of inspirational black writers like James Baldwin and Angelou. Despite its faults at the hands of an overly simplistic script, A Wrinkle in Time seems to be salient and monumental as a lesson for the power of representation. Young black girls may see themselves in Meg, and feel their hearts race as Oprah looks at Meg and prophetically tells her she is beautiful. In the end, A Wrinkle in Time is a sub-par children’s film, but is worth seeing because of the symbolic power it holds, as a great stride in the movement towards inclusion and greater representation.
Film reviewed at Cineworld, Edinburgh.
Image: Atsushi Nishijima via Disney