I feel like Elemental was heavily overshadowed by the release of The Little Mermaid. There was slight promo, but it didn’t take over Times Square like The Little Mermaid. I almost feel like the new season of Loki is getting more promo than this animated movie received. However, this is one of the few animated Disney movies I’ve actually been interested in, and I watched it as soon as I realized it was on Disney+.
Length: 1 hr. 42 min.
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Director: Peter Sohn
Stars: Leah Lewis as Ember & Mamoudou Athie as Wade
From the jump, you can tell this is from the people who brought you Inside Out. The animation style is extremely similar, and emotions play a bigger-than-anticipated part of the film; we’ll get to that in a second.
The film starts with the story of an immigrant couple with big dreams going to a new place to start a new life before their first child Ember is born. There is a quick, cute montage of Ember growing into an adult as her father’s business and their surrounding community develops. When the montage ends, the audience discovers how much of a hard worker Ember is and her anxious urge to take over the family business, but her father will not officially make it hers until she learns to control her anger (*insert emotions being a subplot of the film*). When Ember’s father gives her a chance to run the shop without being her shadow, Ember’s anger gets the best of her and results in a destructive action that introduces us to Wade, a water element. Let the love story begin.
Wade is a beautiful gem. I love how vulnerable Wade is; he has no qualms about showing his emotions, and it’s nice having an animated love story with a male lead who wears his heart on his sleeve and always finds a way to empathize. With lines like, “I’ve just never been punched in the face with beauty before,” Wade proves he is such a swoon-worthy blob of water.
My heart almost jumped out of my chest with affection when Wade tells Ember, “Ember, when I met you, I thought I was drowning, but that light… that light inside you has made me feel so alive. And all I want now is to be near it—near you, together.” I’ve encountered very few men brave enough to be that honest and vulnerable with their feelings. If only Wade were real…
Throughout the film, you learn more about Ember’s parents’ story. It seems they were the start of the fire element community (I believe they called it Fire Town) outside of the city—away from the water, air, and earth elements. Fire has been deemed the outcast. Later in the movie, we learn that Ember’s parents left Fireland because of a large storm, but I am genuinely confused as to how the large storm only destroyed her parents’ home and none of the surrounding houses.
Later in the film, we learn that Ember only wanted to take over the shop because of her dad’s hard work and journey and sacrifice that made the business come into fruition. The pressure of making her dad proud was making her unhappy, which is where Ember’s angry outbursts were coming from. When this is revealed, Ember’s repressed vulnerability is released, and she says, “…the only way to repay a sacrifice so big is by sacrificing your life too.”
It wouldn’t be a Pixar movie without lines that punch you in the gut and call you out, like when Wade says, “Sometimes when I lose my temper, I think it’s just me trying to tell me something I’m not ready to hear.” Big oof.
There were little quirks throughout the film that I loved, like changing “lazy ass” to “lazy ash” to keep is appropriate for children.
Furthermore, I think Lauv’s song “Steal the Show” was perfect for what I call the “falling in love” montage where the two main leads go on several dates together, and the audience has no idea how much time is actually passing. Since we’re on the topic of music, Thomas Newman did a beyond incredible job with the score. Wow wow and wow.
My interior design mind is obsessed with the dystopian look of Element City. Like, I would move there in a heart beat. The scene with the hot air balloon (and the way she made it!) took my breath away.
Of course, Disney threw in what is becoming the obligatory token LGBTQIA+ couple with Wade’s sister having a girlfriend. Disney does the bare minimum to prove they’re an ally.
With this film being “the guy falls first” trope, an absolute favorite of mine, Elemental won my heart. This film is a beautiful love story between the rich (Wade) and the poor (Ember), but it also feels like it’s Disney’s interesting way of telling an interracial love story for two reasons:
A) Ember and Wade are two different elements
B) Ember comes from an immigrant family
Needless to say, Elemental got me. It pulled at the right heartstrings and had me in tears at the end.