My senior musical, once again in the ensemble, though I had a four-word solo in a big chorus number. My mother made my costume, so I would actually look Scottish and not American colonial (seriously, the costumes came with mop caps). Overall, I was just happy we were doing a musical about Scotland, but part of me was also disappointed I didn’t actually have a part. I already knew this show going in. The film stars Gene Kelly (most famous for An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, but a staple of musicals in the fifties and sixties) as Tommy Albright, a New Yorker, hunting in Scotland with his friend. They get lost and discover the mysterious village of Brigadoon. Gene Kelly was also the choreographer of the film and thus it features a lot of incredible dancing. The musical was written by Lerner and Loewe, just as prolific as Rodgers and Hammerstein.
As the mists clear around Brigadoon at the start of the show, a quiet chorus sings Brigadoon. The show really starts with MacConnachy Square as the town rises for the day, selling their wares. And today is a special day; the wedding of Charlie Dalrymple to Jeanie Campbell. At the Campbell home, the young women are preparing. They talk about Jeanie Packing Up (which was not included in the film) and Jeanie’s older sister, Fiona remarks that she is Waitin’ for My Dearie.
The hunters, Tommy and Jeff, enter the village square truly perplexed not only at people’s dress, but Fiona was the only friendly person. Charlie however is thrilled and invites the strangers to his wedding, for he will Go Home with Bonnie Jean (this is a fun song). Fiona stops by the square for items for the wedding and takes Tommy out to find Heather on the Hill. While she is gone, Charlie stops by the house to sign the family Bible and sings to his intended, Come to Me, Bend to Me (very romantic, and sadly not included in the film). Local flirt, Meg Brockie takes Jeff for a nap, then makes a fuss when he doesn’t want to sleep with her, for she was trying to find The Love of My Life (also cut from the film, apparently too risqué).
Tommy is quite taken by Fiona and remarks to Jeff when they meet up, It’s Almost Like Being in Love. However, he begins to take note of people mentioning a miracle and a blessing and finds the dates in Fiona’s family Bible. She takes them to the schoolmaster, Mr. Lundie, who tells them about Mr. Forsythe, the minister, praying to God for a miracle to protect the village from witches in the eighteenth century. [Historical note: not sure the person who wrote this musical quite figured out their timelines; the Battle of Culloden (those who watch Outlander will understand the significance) happened in Scotland in April of 1746 and this miracle supposedly happened in May of 1746 and witches were not as prevalent…maybe the English trying to take over their land. Witches might be a more reasonable cause a hundred years prior]. Carrying on, God granted a miracle, that Brigadoon would disappear into the mists and appear once every hundred years; when the villagers go to bed, it’s one year, when they rise the next morning, it’s a hundred years later [don’t think about the math too much or you realize bad things]. If someone from the outside wants to stay, they must love someone enough to leave their old life. But a villager can’t leave, or the whole village will disappear forever.
And this is where Harry Beaton causes a problem. He’s in love with Jeanie Campbell, who is happily marrying Charlie Dalrymple. The clans gather for the wedding, all clad in tartan (though if you want to see true Highland garb, watch Outlander; yes, tartan breeches were a thing, a weird thing, but nonetheless, real. Oh yes, and further historical note: it was after the Battle of Culloden that wearing tartan was outlawed, thanks to the English). And it is true Scottish custom that there need not be a minister present at a wedding, as long as the two being married share mutual consent [this has popped up in Scottish romances; women cannot be married against their will]. There is a dance, including a lovely one by Jeanie. Then a sword dance (real thing, and also cut from the film, boo). Harry participates and runs off after seeing Jeanie happy, shouting he will leave Brigadoon and doom them all. Tommy joins the men in The Chase, hunting Harry Beaton down before he can ruin things. Jeff has wandered off to hunt and thinks he’s shooting at a bird. Harry is the one who falls down dead.
Meg Brockie entertains the wedding guests with the tale of My Mother’s Wedding Day, until the men return with Harry (this is all cut from the film; Fiona and Jeanie’s father tells everyone to keep quiet and not disturb the joyous occasion. Another cut song by Tommy is There But For You Go I). Tommy is ready to stay in Brigadoon, until Jeff tells him what happened. Tommy begins to doubt enough that he won’t stay. But once he returns to New York and his fiancée, he cannot concentrate. Little words will remind him of something and he ignores what is going on. Tommy breaks it off with his fiancée and drags Jeff back to Scotland. He gets a miracle of his own; the town was just starting to disappear and he can enter. As Mr. Lundie remarked, “if you love something enough, anything is possible.”
The music in this show is fun, especially the songs that were cut; upon re-watching of the film, I had never noticed that they weren’t in the film. It features, as many other musicals do, a couple falling in love at first sight; which I always argue is never a good way to start a lasting relationship, or least, not a believable one. Gene Kelly is of course, a remarkable dancer and his partner is skilled as well.
Stars Patrick Dempsey (famous for Grey’s Anatomy, which I don’t watch) as Tom and features Kevin McKidd (we saw him in Last Legion and Kingdom of Heaven; he was Poseidon in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and voiced the MacGuffin clan in Brave) as Scottish Colin.
The film opens in 1998, at Cornell University where Tom gets in bed with the wrong girl at Halloween. Ten years later, they’re best friends. Tom sleeps around, he has rules (to keep him from getting close to someone), but he and Hannah meet up once a week, joking and sharing food. Hannah has the opportunity to spend six weeks in Scotland for her art job. While Hannah is gone, Tom misses her and realizes he wants to take the next step with her. But when they meet for dinner once she is back, she announces she is engaged to Scottish Colin who rescued her during a thunderstorm. She asks Tom to be her maid of honor (she expects to be his best man when he marries).
With some encouragement from his guy friends, Tom accepts, so he can break up the wedding from inside. He’s set up to throw an embarrassing bridal shower by a jealous bridesmaid, but he does point out that due to the whirlwind nature of their courtship, Colin doesn’t know about the unique details of Hannah, that Tom knows. Overall, Tom impresses Hannah with his maid of honor duties. They fly to Scotland for the wedding, with the knowledge that Hannah plans to live there after the wedding. *sigh* I love the scenery. The film features Eilean Donan castle, near the Isle of Skye and the men participate in the Highland Games (a real thing). Colin even sings My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, a poem written by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns (I adore the song and simply melt when I hear Welshman Bryn Terfel perform it) and plays the bagpipes. This all further cements that Hannah doesn’t truly know her fiancé (this all occurs in roughly two months).
Tom kisses Hannah during her bachelorette party, but Hannah is set to marry Colin. Tom leaves before the wedding, but soon realizes that he can’t let her go. He makes it to the church in time for the bit where the priest asks if anyone has cause for the couple to not marry “speak now or forever hold your peace.” He’s flung inside the church and admits “I love you,” to Hannah. She returns the ring to Colin, who then promptly punches Colin in the face. The film ends happily for the couple with their own wedding.
Overall, a fun, light-hearted film. I like it for the Scottish bits; I would gladly marry a man like Colin.
Stars Katherine Heigl as Jane and James Marsden (Prince Edward in Enchanted and Cyclops in X-Men; he was also in Hairspray) as Kevin. Jane loves weddings and goes above and beyond for her friends as their bridesmaid. She meets Kevin, a wedding cynic while she is going between two weddings on the same night. He picks up her planner by accident, but keeps it when it gives him an idea for a story; he writes the commitment section of the newspaper, but wants a front-page story. He has met the typical “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”
Jane happens to have a massive crush on her boss, George and bends over backwards as his assistant. Her friend calls her out on it; she really ought to say something, everyone knows it. This is interrupted when Jane’s younger sister, Tess comes to visit and hits it off with George. George ends up proposing to Tess a little while later, even though she hasn’t been completely honest with him about some aspects of her life; Jane has to witness it quietly. To top it off, Kevin is writing an article about the upcoming nuptials. He and Jane spend time together since she ends up doing a long of the planning. At her home one day, Kevin discovers a closet full of bridesmaid dresses, twenty-seven precisely. They spend a fun afternoon with her trying them on and him taking pictures. Later, they are stranded in a storm at a bar (singing Benny and the Jets together). Jane is recognized the next morning, not for that, but as the feature story, which the editor ran before Kevin could tell Jane.
Already upset, Jane discovers that her sister has cut up their mother’s wedding dress. She walks away from her sister and plans her revenge. At the rehearsal, Jane reveals the secrets Tess has been hiding, but meanly as her friend points out. George breaks off the engagement. he finally realizes that Jane has had a crush. They try kissing, but realize it does nothing. Jane leaves her job. Her father forces her to make up with Tess, her sister pointing out she is an adult now and does not need Jane to mother her any longer. Jane races off to find Kevin and reveals she has fallen in love with him.
The film ends sweetly with their wedding. George and Tess even seem willing to give their relationship another try. And all of Jane’s friends return, wearing the bridesmaid gowns from their weddings.
This is actually one of my favorite rom-coms and it certainly has a recognizable cast to it! Stars Jack Black (this is a much different role from School of Rock), Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet (Titanic, Sense and Sensibility), Jude Law (young Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts, Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes, starred in Anna Karenina, he was in Captain Marvel, the abomination that was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and voiced the bad guy in Rise of the Guardians), and Rufus Sewell (I think we’ve already covered that I adore him in period roles, such as A Knight’s Tale,Tristan and Isolde; he was in Amazing Grace and Masterpiece’s Victoria as well). Oh, and if Maggie looks familiar, she was in A Knight’s Tale as well, opposite Heath Ledger.
Both American Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and English Iris (Kate Winslet) are fed up with their love lives around Christmas and decide they need to get out of town and meet on a house exchange website. Amanda has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend and thrown him out of her house. Iris finds out that the man she has had a crush on and periodically dated for three years in engaged to another woman. Iris is thrilled by Amanda’s large L.A. home, while Amanda is a bit bored in Iris’s English cottage. At least, until Iris’s brother, Graham (Jude Law) stops by. He’s a bit drunk, she’s ready to go home in the morning, so given the circumstances, they decide it’s alright to sleep with each other. Then Amanda decides to stay and continues to meet up with Graham (he is a gentleman and does not have sex with her when she’s drunk to the point of unconsciousness)
In L.A. Iris’s ex, Jasper (Rufus Sewell) calls her for proofreading help [remember, the one that cheated on her, but they’ve stayed friends, though he’s now engaged to someone else]. She’s now a bit depressed until she spots a lost elderly man she recognizes from Amanda’s neighborhood. Turns out the man was a big time Hollywood writer back in the day. She convinces him to attend a celebration in his honor and works with him to improve his walking. She also meets Miles (Jack Black), a film composer. When he discovers that his girlfriend has started seeing someone else, he and Iris start hanging out.
In England, Amanda and Graham are enjoying each other’s company, though Amanda wonders why Graham is getting calls from an Olivia and a Sophie. She discovers they are his daughters; he’s a widower. His daughters are utterly charming. Things are now a bit complicated, but they try to make it work. Graham admits that he has fallen in love with Amanda; she has promised she won’t fall in love with him and is frustrated by the idea of working on a long-distance relationship. We can tell she’s fallen for Graham though [and who wouldn’t fall for Jude Law?]. They part with no specific plan.
Jasper pays an unexpected visit to Iris (right after Miles’ ex calls him away). He needs her, he doesn’t want to lose her. Oh wait, he’s still engaged. Iris finally lets him have it and becomes the leading lady in her own life with a bit of gumption. She eagerly escorts her elderly friend to his celebration to a packed auditorium. Miles has left his ex and suggests he visits Iris at her home for New Year’s.
Amanda has also decided to stay for New Year’s after shedding a few tears (she hasn’t cried since her parents’ divorce when she was fifteen). The film ends with a heartwarming glimpse at a New Year’s party at Graham’s with his daughters, Iris, Amanda, and Miles.
I probably prefer these rom coms to some of the older ones, and The Holiday is really cute. Just one romantic comedy movie left, Ten Inch Hero
Another Scottish hero story, though adapted for Hollywood; it came out the same year as Braveheart and followed in the wake of Prince of Thieves. Bears no connection to Walter Scott’s novel.
“Rob Roy MacGregor has become the quintessential Highlander – a curious blend of patriot, freebooter, outlaw, and frontiersman; a man of honour who was also a bandit, a cattle-rustler and the chief of the protection racket….Rob Roy MacGregor was a frontiersman of his times, in that he and his clansmen lived in the frontier lands between Highlands and Lowlands – the Trossachs at Loch Lomond [Lomond is mentioned once or twice in the film]…the third son of the fifth chief of his clan…grew up to be immensely strong, with exceptionally long arms, and became renowned for his skill with the broadsword….Like so many Highlanders he was a Jacobite (Scotland: The Story of a Nation, Mangus Mangusson, pgs. 568-9).”
The Clan MacGregor had been outlawed by King James I (of England, VI of Scotland…a bit confusing) in 1603, so Rob actually used his mother’s clan name of Campbell. “To some he was nothing but highwayman and a gangster; to others he was a latter-day Robin Hood, robbing the rich to give to the poor, ambushing government troops and freeing their prisoners. He was captured on several occasions, but always managed to escape. His exploits became legendary for their audacity (pg. 570).” But the main plot points of the story are correct in the film. They made up one of the villains, Archibald Cunningham. Rob Roy was eventually pardoned and when he died, he was considered a hero. “In a treacherous age he had never betrayed a trust nor broken his word. He had always been his own man (pg. 571).”
Ironically, Irishman Liam Neeson was cast as the titular Scottish hero, Rob Roy (most famous as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in Phantom Menace, the voice of Aslan in the recent Narnia movies, an action star in the Taken films, and the titular Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List [which I have not seen, not sure I want to, due to subject matter]. He played an famous Irishman in Michael Collins [I have seen, but it’s more political and confusing], Hannibal in the rebooted A-Team film, and Ducard in Batman Begins [and another funny note; years ago Disney had cast Scotsman Sean Connery to play an Irishman in Darby O’Gill and the Little People]). John Hurt (the War Doctor, Ollivander from Harry Potter, and the Great Dragon from Merlin) is the Marquis Montrose, Tim Roth (Emil Blonksy in The Incredible Hulk, which is part of the MCU and the villainous Febre in The Musketeer) is Archibald Cunningham – he wears foppish clothes, but you know he really wants to be wearing black. Andrew Keir (who has a filmography going back to the fifties, including the epic Cleopatra) is the Duke of Argyll and Brian Cox (we just saw him in Braveheart amongst his other movies) is Killearn.
The opening of the film tells of the hard times in Scotland; “this story symbolises the attempt of the individual…to retain respect and honour.” Rob Roy and his kilted men are chasing other Highlanders who stole cattle from the Marquis of Montrose. Rob kills their leader to prevent further bloodshed. He also has it in his mind to ask the Marquis for a loan, in order to turn a profit on another herd of cattle. The Marquis has already butted heads with the Duke of Argyll (Duke outranks Marquis). Montrose’s ward (maybe nephew?), Archibald Cunningham bests the Dukes champion…because English nobility like to wager on two Scotsmen fighting each other for sport. Montrose’s right hand man, Killearn, has an idea involving Archibald and Rob’s money. Instead of the promised creditor note, Killearn gives Rob’s chosen man a bag of coin (making it easier to steal and more dangerous to transport). Then Archibald lies in wait and ends up killing the poor man; Archibald in place due to Killearn’s scheme. When Rob does not receive the money, he has to go before the Marquis again. Montrose will waive the debt, if Rob agrees to swear that the Duke of Argyll is a Jacobite.
Historical note: Jacobites supported the Stuart claim to the throne of Scotland and England, meaning James Stuart and his descendants. In 1603, when Elizabeth I died without an heir, the line of succession picked up with the offspring of Henry VIII’s sister, Margaret, who had married James IV of Scotland. They had a son, James V, who had a daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots [a contemporary of Elizabeth and there’s a whole story there], who had a son, James VI. Thus, he ascended the throne, joining the two crowns. This began the reign of the Stuarts in England. His son, Charles I, ascended at James’ death. Charles was executed for treason and Oliver Cromwell stepped in (hated by many…there are murals of the Irish hatred of him). His son, Charles II was eventually restored to the throne. After him was his son, James II, but he was deposed in the Glorious Revolution. This is when the famous Jacobite uprisings occurred, sporadically from 1689 to 1759 [the film states it takes place in 1713], again, think Outlander. The Jacobites wanted James II, or his son back on the throne. Instead, English parliament awarded his Protestant daughters, Mary and Anne joint rule. Mary died and her husband ruled for a while until his death, then Anne took the throne. Though Anne had seventeen pregnancies, none of her children survived, which is when this story takes place. If we continue on, since England wished to remain Protestant, despising Catholics (thank you, Henry VIII), none of Anne’s Catholics relatives (like those in Scotland) could claim the throne, thus picking up the line of Charles I’s sister, Elizabeth and through her picked up the Hanover title, leading to George I (of many George’s) and thus the House of Hanover. Yes, it’s all quite complicated and I barely understand it since it was never properly covered in my undergraduate history courses. I obviously know of the Jacobite rebellions and support them (thank you, Scottish romances) and England needs to keep its nose out of Scotland’s business. To sum it up, political tensions are bubbling and the English and Scottish don’t like each other.
Carrying on: Rob refuses to bear false witness as it would be dishonorable for him; he doesn’t care about the Duke. Montrose shouldn’t be so shocked; it would be breaking a commandment, but he calls for Rob’s arrest. Rob escapes and takes to the hills. Cunningham is given permission to hunt him down and starts at Rob’s home. His wife, Mary, sends their boys for help, while Cunningham (and Killearn watches) burns the land, shoots the cattle, and rapes Mary. Killearn has the gall to tell her as she proudly holds her head high amongst English soldiers, “they say it’s not a sin if you don’t take pleasure in it.” Rob’s younger brother finally runs in to try to pick a fight once the soldiers leave. Mary tries to wash Archibald off her and the brother is horrified. She insists that Rob is not to be told; it’s what they want, it will only get her husband killed. “If I can bear it to be done, you can bear to be silent!”
In retaliation, Rob and his men steal Montrose’s cattle and rent and hurt him in his purse. Honestly, Montrose has suspicions of what Cunningham and Killearn cooked up, but he does not want his name mocked. A serving girl that Cunningham got pregnant reveals what she knows to Mary when Cunningham does nothing about the baby. Rob takes Killearn and plans to hold his own trial, with the serving girl as a witness. But she’s desperately in love with Cunningham and kills herself. Mary tries to reason with the man and he attempts to turn the tables on her. She cuts his neck, terribly wounding him. The brother aids Killearn in drowning. Retributions escalate. The brother fires on soldiers who are plundering the Highlands. He’s shot for his trouble and reveals Mary’s secret to Rob before he dies. Rob tries to escape, but is ultimately captured by Cunningham. He’s taken, bleeding and worn to Montrose. Montrose, who really does know what kind of man Cunningham is, orders Rob to be hung. Rob tries to hang Cunningham instead and escapes into the river.
In the meantime, Mary has gone to the Duke of Argyll for help. Since Rob won’t stand against the Duke for Montrose, Argyll will help. He offers protection to the outlaw and when Rob returns home, he arranges a meeting between Rob and Cunningham. Mary admits to Rob about the baby; she can’t know who the father is (she and Rob are shown in a very loving (cough cough) relationship. Rob seems alright with the baby, even telling his children that an addition is on its way. Argyll makes an agreement with Montrose, if Rob wins, the debt is called off, if he loses, Argyll will pay the amount and the matter will be settled. Cunningham holds the advantage most of the duel, staying out of reach of Rob and landing damaging hits. But he allows Rob the chance to grab his sword when Cunningham has him at his mercy and lands a deep blow to Cunningham, killing him. Rob returns home.
My feelings on Rob Roy; I found it long after I was already in love with Scottish history. It fits right in the time period I am used to reading but since it deals more with Rob’s grievances against Montrose and Cunningham, I just don’t get into it. Admittedly, the duel at the end is very cool. It’s well done and has a good cast; I just don’t swoon (unlike certain parts of Outlander; but it’s against probably due to the difference in genre). Another interesting note; at several points in the film, they use O’Sullivan’s March, an Irish tune. Aye, Scottish and Irish music do share many similarities, but why could they not find a Scottish tune to use for a film about a Scottish hero?
Next Time: Carrying on to the latter 18th century with The Duchess
Just about the least historically accurate movie ever filmed. While there is not a lot of written history about William Wallace from that time period, there is in regards to other elements of the film. Mel Gibson and writer, Randall Wallace (no relation) have stated that they did not intend for the story to be accurate, just a good, cinematic story. I came to this movie several years after getting interested in Scottish history; and no, this movie had no influence on that. I actually got into Scottish history due to historical romances, many of which take place during Robert the Bruce’s campaigns against the English. So my loyalty is to the Bruce (another national hero in Scotland). There is a Wallace Monument near Stirling in Scotland, a statue on the Bermersyde estate, near Melrose in the Scottish borders (where William Wallace really was from, not the highlands), and there is a statue of him alongside Robert the Bruce at the gates to Edinburgh castle. There is a Robert the Bruce statue erected at Bannockburn, which is near Stirling, and was refurbished in time for the 700th anniversary of the significant battle.
Before I delve into the history portion of the movie, let’s cover cast real quick. Obviously, Mel Gibson stars as William Wallace (Braveheart was actually an moniker for Robert the Bruce). Hello James Cosmo as the elder Campbell. Brian Cox (Agamemnon in Troy and William Styker in the X-Men trilogy) is William’s uncle Argyle Wallace. And playing another red-head, Brendan Gleeson is Hamish (Reynald from Kingdom of Heaven).
The film begins in 1280 and the opening narration claims the king of Scotland had just died without an heir. Not true: Alexander III ruled until 1286 and had an infant granddaughter, Margaret. She ruled for four years (bringing us to 1290), never having set foot in Scotland and there was a succession crisis upon her death; there were thirteen rival claimants for the throne. The two strongest contestants were John Balliol and Robert Bruce, both descendants of King David I’s daughters (Royal Britain by Charles Phillips, pgs 69-70).
The narration continues that the king of England was Edward I, known as Longshanks, and referred to him as a pagan. Yeah, Edward was not pagan. There were no true pagans in Britain since the Vikings. Edward I even fought in the Crusades. Maybe they were hoping to pass this off as “creative license,” that the Scots would consider Edward pagan. Though, it’s hypocritical to make the comment that history is written by those who hang heroes as a way to pass off this as correct Scottish history. Because Britain as a whole was Christian. And Catholic. And England was Christianized before Scotland.
“Edward brought a ferocious martial vigor to his reign, forcefully imposing his authority on his realm, ending Welsh independence and waging a series of brutal wars in the north that later earned him the nickname ‘Hammer of the Scots’ (Royal Britain, pg. 50). He erected a ring of castles in Wales and borderlands to control the Welsh. He annexed the land and made it a principality of England. Hence why the crown prince is known as the Prince of Wales (remember the Black Prince from Knight’s Tale? This is how he had that title. Even though he died before becoming king). This is when the Welsh hero Llywelyn ap Gruffudd comes in to play. When the succession crisis arose in Scotland, the Scottish nobles asked Edward to arbitrate. Well, that just opened the door for Edward to take control through choosing John Balliol, who would swear fealty to Edward. When Balliol was captured and put in the Tower of London, the Scottish nobles revolted. And that’s when the Stone of Scone (ancient coronation stone of Scotland) was taken and put in Westminster Abbey. It was finally returned, 700 years later in 1996 (British Kings and Queens by Sandra Forty, pgs. 60-61).
So, right off the bat, we know this movie has messed with the timeline “for dramatic purposes.” You can’t just put things together, “hey, these happened in this place at some point,” and mash them together. That’s Hollywood for you. Carrying on with the story they are telling, young William Wallace witnesses the massacre at the first gathering, called by Edward. The men left for another meeting and William’s father and older brother are killed off screen. William’s uncle Argyle fetches William and remarks the evening after the funeral, that the men are playing “outlawed tunes on outlawed pipes.” Another time period inaccuracy: bagpipes and that music weren’t outlawed by the English until the 1700s, after the Battle of Culloden (think Outlander). So they’re a good 500 years off.
Another historical note: tartans as we know them today and are represented in the movie, are not referred to in written form until 1471. “References to tartan in Gaelic literature date from the early sixteenth century, and descriptions of the multicolored clot appear in Lowland Scots by the 1570s (Clans and Tartans of Scotland and Ireland by James Mackay, pg. 15). The big craze for tartan was brought by English King George IV when he visited Scotland in 1822, wearing a kilt. “Although tartan features prominently (an anachronistically) in the film, it bears no resemblance to an identifiable sett (pg. 36).”
Edward marries his son to Isabella, princess of France, though I don’t believe she is actually named on screen in the entire movie. Though prince Edward has a favorite amongst the court, Piers Gaveston (again, never named), and quite possibly closer than that. That bit is historically accurate. However, Edward II didn’t marry Princess Isabella until after his father’s death (Royal Britain, pg. 52). They’re just mucking up the whole timeline, aren’t they! Longshanks has the brilliant idea to breed the Scots out of Scotland. “The trouble with Scotland is that it’s full of Scots!” Edward declares (not sure if he actually said that), and declares ‘prima noctis,’ that any English noble has sexual rights to any common Scottish woman the first night of her wedding. That was not actually a thing, pretty sure the Catholic church would frown upon that.
This kicks off the trouble. William has returned home after being educated by Argyle. He rides through a wedding and witnesses this fictional right being enforced. All the while, a young woman is making eyes with him. It’s his old flame, Murrin (she had given William a thistle at his father’s funeral. And that is all the back story they are shown, but they’re supposed to be desperately in love with each other, after having no contact with each other for at least a decade). Then William takes her riding and immediately wants to court her. You haven’t seen each other for over ten years, how do you know you’re compatible? Her father refuses until William proves he’s only interested in peace. They still meet secretly and marry secretly. A creepy old English guard notices them being friendly with each other and tries to force himself on Murrin. William attempts to rescue her, but she’s still captured and her throat is slit by the English magistrate, who claims he has shown leniency to the Scots and they’ve lived in relative peace. William rides in, seemingly surrendering, then pulls out what looks like nun chucks and attacks the English. The other Scots join in and William soon slits the throat of the magistrate.
Men start gathering to Wallace’s cause. They next attack a Scottish castle. Edward starts worrying about the rebellion, but leaves his son to take care of it while he journeys to France (um, if the French king’s daughter is married to the English king’s son, why does England still have to go fight France? Probably because England was fighting France at that time, because Edward II hadn’t married Isabella yet). That solves nothing. The Scots just attack another castle. Robert the Bruce is discussing Wallace’s rebellion with his father. His father urges him to retain ties to England, as many other Scottish nobles do. Robert wants to side with William. The Irish join the Scots, eager to fight the English historically, at this time, the Scottish and Irish did fight each other).
And we come to the battle of Stirling. Which is supposed to have a bridge, conveniently missing in the film, since it was too difficult to film. That’s why the English had problems; they got bottlenecked. Really, this movie isn’t too great with geography. Edinburgh looks nothing like what it should. There’s a big hill in Edinburgh, that is not shown at all. Continuing with the movie version, the common Scots don’t want to fight for the nobles and start to leave before Wallace rides in with anachronistic blue face paint. He gives a rousing speech “they make take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.” He rides with the nobles to pick a fight, demanding that the English “beg forgiveness for a hundred years of theft, rape, and murder.” The battle begins, with England eventually retreating. I always feel bad for the horses in battle scenes. I know they’re not actually harmed, but in history they were.
William is knighted and tries to persuade Robert the Bruce to join him. The people and the nobles respect the Bruce; if he leads, they will follow, including Will. William and his men proceed to attack York and behead the king’s nephew. Outraged, Edward decides to send Isabella to negotiate peace, sensing that William will not harm a woman. Alone in the English court and distant from her husband, Isabella falls for William Wallace and sends him warnings when she can. Wallace will not yield to England. Edward tries to trap William, but is secretly foiled by Isabella. William once again approaches the nobles to unite Scotland. Robert gives his word to William, but his father has other ideas.
Come the battle of Falkirk, the Scots face the English again. But Edward has bribed the Scottish nobles and they leave the battle. Edward has more men in reserves and crushes the Scottish army. A helmeted knight faces Wallace and unhorses him. Underneath the helmet, it’s Robert the Bruce. Wallace is shocked and Robert feels bad. He sends William to safety and yells at his father later. Once he’s healed, William kills the nobles who betrayed him. He runs to the hills and tall tales about him spread. He sees the princess again and they sleep together. There is montage of the princess in love while both elderly fathers grow ill.
The nobles betray William again; William trusts Robert who does try to save him, but is not successful. William is taken to trial in England and will not confess to treason; he never swore allegiance to Edward I. He is found guilty and will be punished. Isabella tries to talk William into confessing, but he won’t. She goes to the king to beg mercy, but he won’t yield. She remarks to a guard that the king will be dead in a month and his son is weak, so who will truly rule? To Edward, she murmurs that “a child not of your line grows in my belly; your son will not sit long on the throne, I swear.” Not true.
As already stated, Isabella and Edward II aren’t married yet at the time of Wallace’s rebellion. And their son isn’t born until 1312. Edward II wasn’t a good king either and even had another favorite, Hugh Despenser after Gaveston is beheaded by his barons (not thrown out a window by Edward I as shown in the movie). And Isabella indeed became powerful when her husband took up with Despenser. She plotted Edward II’s downfall with Roger Mortimer; in 1326 they captured Edward and in 1327 forced him to abdicate for his fourteen-year-old son, also named Edward. Later that year, he was murdered in Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire. A few years later, Mortimer is sent to the Tower and Isabella is exiled (Royal Britain, pgs. 53-54).
The film shows William’s drawn-out torture. First, he is hung. Then released and urged to confess. Then he is racked, and released, and urged to confess. By the time he is laid out, the crowd is pleading for mercy. But William shouts “Freedom!” as his entrails are removed (mercifully not shown on camera). He is beheaded (not shown, thankfully), drawn and quartered. Longshanks dies as William shouts. The closing narration hits on Bannockburn in 1314, where the Scots won their freedom. Robert the Bruce leads them to victory. That event just celebrated its 700th anniversary and I know my British magazines all featured articles that year.
I beg your pardon on the amount of history I wove in; I have a passion for Scottish history, as I mentioned, born of historical romances. I also was teased for my interest in Scottish history in high school, which just makes me stubbornly hold on to it (bit like a Viking, lol). This is the type of writing I like to do, mixing in history. I enjoyed it in college, and being the little nerd that I am, I miss is. So I did enjoy diving into this film and examining the true history of the time period. And now I want to carry on reading some of my Scottish romance series I have been neglecting. We’ll see if I actually get to them (I’m to the point that I have started some books I’ll have to re-start because it’s been so long. This was so much easier in college!) A decent note for the movie; yes, we cheer for Scottish independence, I’ll never argue against that. And it does keep me more awake that the previous few historical movies. And the musical theme is just beautiful. I am interested in watching Netflix’s film with Chris Pine on Robert the Bruce, Outlaw King.
Next Time: We start delving into the Tudor dynasty (another time period I am familiar with), starting with Lady Jane
Pixar’s contribution to the Disney princess line, the film did win a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Oscar for Best Animated Film. It features an all-star cast, headed up by Kelly Macdonald (Evangeline from Nanny McPhee and Helena Ravenclaw from Death Hallows Part 2), who voices Merida; Billy Connolly (Il Duce from The Boondock Saints [I’ve seen that movie precisely once, and loudly exclaimed – at ten ‘o’clock at night – “That’s Dain!”] and Dain from Battle of the Five Armies) is her father, Fergus; the ever-brilliant Emma Thompson (amongst other roles, the titular Nanny McPhee, also Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies) is Queen Elinor; Julie Walters voices the witch (I did not know that; and Julie Walters may be most recognized as Mrs. Weasley), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid, and an ally-of-sorts for James Bond) is Lord Dingwall; and Lord Macintosh is voiced by Craig Ferguson (Gobber from How to Train Your Dragon and host of his Late Show).
The film takes place in a mysterious age in Scotland [which is a huge reason why I love the movie]; there are elements of Scottish history and culture from every age thrown into the movie (i.e. Vikings and corsets are not from the same era). It’s not a true musical, as the characters don’t sing to further the plot, but it does feature three songs on its soundtrack and piqued and interest in Julie Fowlis. There is also a fun drinking song that the men sing; and a lovely lullaby that mother and daughter share; overall I simply love the soundtrack – I love Celtic music.
The story opens on Elinor playing with a young Merida on her birthday. Her father gifts her with her own bow and the little red-head eagerly practices firing arrows. One goes astray and she ventures into the woods to fetch it. She encounters will o’the wisps that lead her back into camp. Just in time, for a hulking scarred bear emerges behind her – Mor’du. Fergus and his men attack as Elinor and Merida ride away. Merida narrates as we fast forward in time (while watching beautiful vistas…visiting Scotland is top of my bucket list)
“Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it. Others say fate is woven together like a cloth, one’s destiny intertwines with many others. It’s the one thing we search for, or fight to change. Some never find it. But there are some who are led.”
Fergus lost a leg to Mor’du, but cheerfully vows revenge on the beast. Elinor bore triplet sons, who are the definition of mischief. And Merida is in training to become a proper princess; she has duties, responsibilities, expectations; her whole life is planned out. And she sounds none too pleased about it. But on her birthday, she can do whatever she wants, which means riding her horse Angus through an archery course. At home, her mother chastises her for setting her bow on the table; in her opinion, a princess should not have a bow. Important mail is delivered; all three clans have accepted their invitations. Invitations to what, Merida asks. Fergus hems and haws about telling her, so Elinor simply states that all three lords will present their sons as suitors to win Merida’s hand in marriage. This is news to Merida; she does not want to think about betrothal or marriage. She storms off in a huff, working out her frustration by hacking at her bedpost with a sword.
Elinor tells the legend of an ancient kingdom, ruled by a wise and just king who was much beloved. When it came time, he decided to split his kingdom into four equal sections and give a part to each of his sons. But the eldest, wanted to rule all the land by himself. “He forged his own path and the kingdom feel to war and chaos and ruin.” When Merida passes it off as a simple story, Elinor chides that “legends are lessons.” The two women separate, venting their frustrations to their companions. They insist that the other does not listen. Merida does not want to get married yet, or maybe even at all. She feels like marriage is an end; she does not want her life to be over. Elinor maintains that marriage is not the end of the world, this is the culmination of everything they have been preparing Merida for. [Personally, I think it was an unwise decision to spring the whole concept onto Merida suddenly. It should have been discussed prior to the invitations being sent.]
The gathering continues as planned and Elinor stuffs Merida into a new fancy dress and corset [as someone with a bit of experience in a corset; they take some getting used to and another thing that should have been prepared in advance. The dress is beautiful, but not Merida’s style.] The visiting clans: MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall, compete against each other in rowing before they even arrive. They compete in announcing their respective sons, making each to sound like the finest warrior. The triplets get bored and cause mischief which sets everyone to fighting. Fergus shouts “Shut It!” and all is still for a moment. Then one man lets out a yell and it all starts back up. Elinor calmly settles everyone and announces the rules. Merida perks up when she discovers that it’s all first born who have a right to compete; and she gets to pick the challenge. She announces archery.
Young MacGuffin misses, young Macintosh just misses the bull’s-eye, but young Dingwall happens to hit a bull’s-eye. Fergus leans over to jokingly congruatluate this daughter, only to find her not there. Merida steps out, hair freed from its wimple, annoucning “I’ll be shootin for my own hand!” She has to tear the dress at the seams in order to allow arm movement, then proceeds to shoot three bull’s-eye in a row, splitting Dingwall’s arrow. Elinor is furious and throws Merida into a room in the castle. They shout at each other and Merida calls her mother a beast; she will never be like her, and slashes a tapestry. In retaliation, Elinor throws Merida’s bow into the fire. Merida rushes off in tears and Elinor realizes what she did. She pulls the bow out, but it’s too late; it’s cracked.
Angus and Merida pelt across the landscape and Angus throws Merida. She’s inside a standing stone circle and Angus is not pleased. She spots wisps again and follows. They lead her to a cottage in the woods. Entering, she discovers its filled with bear carvings, a crazy old woman working in the corner. Merida’s already wary of the place, then witnesses the woman’s broom sweeping on its own and the crow talks. She calls the woman a witch and barters for a spell the change her mum in order to change her fate. (She buys the whole lot of bear carvings with a pendant) The last customer the witch had was a young prince who wanted to change his fate as well and wished for the strength of ten men. Merida receives a cake and mysteriously ends up back at the standing stones.
Elinor greets her return in the kitchen and Merida persuades her mother to try her cake as a peace offering, pestering the whole time if she’s changed her mind. Elinor gets sick off the cake and the two women retire to her chambers (Fergus is “entertaining” their guests with The Song of Mor’du). Underneath the covers, Elinor rumbles and grows, emerging as a bear. Merida screams and backs away and the bear reacts as Elinor would. It takes a few confusing moments before Elinor realizes that she’s been turned into a bear. Merida blames the witch. Elinor is not impressed. They have to sneak out of the castle and get the witch to turn Elinor back. Along the way, they bribe the triplets for help after Fergus has caught the scent of bear.
The two ladies manage to find their way to the cottage, but it’s empty. A cauldron issues a message from the witch, something she forgot to tell Merida earlier; the spell will be permanent by the second sunrise, unless they med the bond torn by pride. They can’t accomplish anything that night, so Merida erects a shelter. A memory comes to her as it rains, of another storm years ago, being comforted by her mother and sung a lullaby, Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal). In the morning, Elinor has attempted to gather breakfast, but didn’t realize that they were nightshade berries, which Merida informs her are poisonous. The water was also dirty. Merida shows Elinor how to fish and the two share a pleasant morning. Though as they’re getting ready to leave, Elinor’s eyes change, growing darker and for a moment, she wasn’t human inside. She shifts back quickly, but they understand that time is urgent. They follow the wisps that have appeared, hoping they’ll lead to answers. They enter a ruined kingdom and Merida falls into an old throne room. A carving is smashed, showing the eldest prince separated from three brothers. Merida realizes that all the tales are joined, the ancient kingdom and the prince wishing for the strength of ten men, meaning the prince became Mor’du. Who appears. Merida escapes and she and Elinor end up back at the stones. They must now sneak into the castle and mend the torn tapestry.
Elinor leads them into the castle, but the clans are fighting in the great hall; the visitors insisting Fergus decide which of their sons marries Merida, Fergus declares none of the boys fit. Taking inspiration from her mother, Merida calmly enters the fray, allowing Elinor the opportunity to sneak upstairs. When the clans gets restless again, she now takes after her father and yells for everyone to “Shut It!” She opens with the legend of the ancient kingdom and continues to say that she has learned her lesson. Their kingdom is young and while their stories are not yet legend, a bond was struck when they joined together to repel invaders. Each clan leader saved the other (sometimes by accident) and when Fergus rallied all their forces, they made him king. Now Merida will do her part to mend the rift that was created, but her mother stops her and pantomimes a new idea. They will break tradition – and let the young people choose their own love, write their own stories. All three sons agree and everyone is happily onboard. Before Elinor can be discovered, Merida sends everyone to the cellar for spirits to celebrate. Elinor pantomimes how proud she is of Merida and they head to the tapestry chamber.
Before they can stitch up the tear, Elinor reverts back to a true bear and attacks Merida. Fergus has come looking for Elinor and discovers the scene. Merida tries to stop Fergus from unknowingly attacking his wife. Elinor comes back to herself and flees. Merida takes a moment to attempt to explain the situation to her father, but Fergus doesn’t believe her. He’ll avenge his wife, and locks Merida in the room. Three little bears wander by a few minutes later; the triplets found the cake. Merida once more enlists their help and they’re soon racing back to the stones, the boys steering as Merida sews.
Elinor is surrounded at the stones; they manage to tie her down, but before Fergus can strike a killing blow, Merida shoots the sword out of his hand (Cool!). Fergus pushes Merida aside, letting Lord Macintosh hold her. She flips him, draws a nearby sword and takes down her father (also cool!) “I’ll not let you kill my mother.” The three bears jump on their father and he realizes that they’re his sons, making Merida’s story true. Mor’du shows up and the clans rally again. Deprived of a weapon, Fergus declares “I’ll take you with my bare hands!” Merida tries to assist, but her arrows are no good against the large bear. Elinor has the most luck against Mor’du, coming to her daughter’s aid. The two bears have a go at each other, though Elinor ultimately outwits Mor’du and has one of the standing stones fall on him. The ghost of the prince rises, nods to Merida, and turns into a wisp.
They haven’t much time now, the second sunrise is fast approaching. Merida drapes the mended tapestry over her mother and the light touches the mend. However, Elinor’s eyes darken. Merida heartbreakingly apologizes to her mother; “you’ve always been there for me.” “I love you.” She cries and everyone around her gets teary-eyed. Then a hand rests on her hair. Elinor is back! She kisses her daughter’s face and Fergus cheers and kisses his wife and they’re soon joined by three naked boys.
The movie ends with Elinor working on a new tapestry with Merida. The clans are leaving (the boys trying to sail away as well). Merida echoes her opening speech while riding with her mother,
“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command, that destiny is not our own. But I know better. Our fate lives within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it.”
Overall, I like this movie. I love the message of choosing your own destiny; that Fate is not set in stone. It’s actually akin to story lines that I have been reading for years [I will admit, I read Scottish romances; that’s where my interest in Scottish history developed]. I think it was great that the movie did not end with Merida choosing one of the suitors, a break with Disney tradition. The dynamics between Merida and both of her parents is nicely complex: she seems to take more after her father and he indulged in teaching her to use a variety of weapons, and the mother/daughter relationship is shown to have gone through stages. They were close when Merida was young (as shown in the flashback), then they became strained when Elinor became more demanding on Merida to conform to tradition. At the end, they’re on their way to a close relationship again. Even the relationship between Fergus and Elinor is adorable; Fergus doesn’t mind when Elinor takes over duties he’d rather not do and they seem to genuinely love each other.
As already stated, I love the soundtrack and the animation. And I don’t mind the mixture of Scottish elements. However – I have a few small points of contention. I got so excited before the movie to see this action princess who shoots arrows…and then the story revolves around bears. Yes, the way that both Elinor and Merida have to save each other is wonderful, but I just found Merida whiny at times, and as already mentioned, Elinor and Fergus could have brought up events earlier. My biggest peeve about the movie is the witch. They’re in a land with a history of wonderfully complex witches [Arthur’s sister, Morgause, was married to King Lot of Orkney; the Orkney Isles are under the jurisdiction of Scotland]…and we get a joke. I realize a lot of this was done to make it acceptable for kids; I wish they’d make version of the film for adults with a proper witch that you can’t decide if she’s good or bad and a truly kick-butt princess. Thus, Brave still ranks high on my list, but does not hold the top position.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Up Next: Frozen
Post Script: I remembered that there is a huge crossover that came about between Rise of theGuardians, Brave, Tangled, and How To Train Your Dragon, called either “The Big Four,” or “Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons.” It’s not sure how the crossover was started; crossovers are not uncommon in the fandom and fanfiction worlds; we can cross anything over. My guess is that they were all popular at the same time, all depicted as teenagers, and all willing to fight to change their futures. So, fans figure out a way to team them up to fight a big bad. There’s a whole slew of fanart [some of it is saved on my Pintrest boards]. Some fans also pair Hiccup with Merida [I saw a video somewhere years ago, of a fan asking Merida at Disney if she had ever heard of Hiccup; I don’t think the actress had]. At one point, I was a fan of that; historically, Vikings had invaded Scotland, then settled, so not that outside the realm of possibility. But, Astrid and Hiccup make such an adorable couple! For me, a cool idea, but I’m also fine just enjoying each movie on its own and exploring those worlds.