Genre: romance, fantasy, costume period drama
Plot Summary: Creatively set during the Renaissance in the Netherlands, this fairy tale tells the story of Cinderella, from one of the “ugly” stepsister’s POV. Iris, along with her widowed mother and mentally disabled sister Ruth, flee England for Holland, where they find friends among a couple of promising painters, one of whom takes an interest in Iris. But Iris’ mother has plans of her own, which include designs upon a wealthy merchant who has a famously beautiful daughter. And when financial disasters coincide with the prince’s search for a wife, Iris must learn to become confident and appreciative of who she is.
My Review: I tried to read this book a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into the story and decided to watch the movie instead. So DISCLAIMER: I cannot personally recommend the book or any others by the same author, as I have never read any of them. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hate fairy-tale bashing, and steeled myself for 90 min. of stepsisters clawing at each other’s throats.
But I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of my teeth being set on edge, I was drawn into the story of a girl in difficult circumstances: an embarrassing and manipulative mother; being passed over for a much prettier stepsister; and a talent for art with no outlet for her creativity. But the real story isn’t necessarily the circumstances,– it’s Iris’ journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. At the beginning of the movie, we see Iris disappointed with how she looks, and apt to see herself the way others describe/define her. But through the encouragement of good friends who see something precious in her, she flowers into a more confident young lady, even winning the admiration of the Prince. (One could argue that it is Iris the Prince is truly in love with, since he is interested in her personality and they share things in common. He seems to be only distracted by his infatuation with Clara’s mysterious looks and nothing more.)
Rather than turning the character of Clara [Cinderella] into some sort of witchy villain, this young woman also travels along a journey of discovery. She has isolated her entire life away out of fear of the ‘what ifs’ and consequently lives a pale, joyless existence, tired of those who only see, prey on, and use her beauty. As her father later regretfully tells her, he had allowed fear to clip her wings and to rule her. When she meets Iris and Ruth, at first she feels threatened. But slowly, she begins to step outside her comfort zone and experience life one step at a time, until she finally finds enough courage to try for the Prince’s hand at the ball.
The movie is low-budget, and some of the acting is amateur, but not unbearably so. This rendition adds another dimension to a favorite fairy-tale, without cutting the original off at the knees, and this I appreciated. The story takes precedence, and I found it to be easy family viewing.