The casting of Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair was a real strong move. I tend to be a big fan of his directorial works (Hamlet, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Thor) because he finds and extracts the inner workings of the characters that typically already have a strong familiarity with their audience and presents them in a new way. You get an idea of what makes the characters tick. He does no different here. Everyone is familiar with Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the wicked Step Mother, but before this film they were simply names applicable to cardboard characters. He dives in and gives reasonable explanations as to why Ella lets her stepmother and sisters run her life so. He even gives Prince Charming a name, and compelling back story.
Not all the glory goes to Branagh, mind you. Most of these things stemmed from Chris Weitz’s lovely script. His works tend to be rather hit or miss for me, but he is on form here, and as mentioned above, he offers good insight to the character relationships that was never before present.
Lily James does fine work in the role of Ella, and really sells every scene. Likewise, Richard Madden is every bit as charming as his character’s name. Cate Blanchett is superb as per usge, and I loved Hayley Atwell’s small performance as Ella’s mother. The only real casting misstep is Helena Bonham Carter who hams up the screen for her major scene. I would have liked to see something a little more subtle from her. I guess I like my fairy godmothers less Jack Sparrow and more Glinda the good witch. But, I digress.