Damsel REVIEW – A Damn Hard Sell

Ironically, the film itself needs a bit of saving.


If you’ve watched the trailer for Damsel, or even just read the synopsis, you will basically know the plot of the film. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that when a royal family from a kingdom far, far away comes knocking on your door just so their son can marry your daughter, even when you have nothing to offer them, something is definitely wrong with this situation. This is exactly what happens to Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) after her father signs a marriage contract with a royal family.

While Elodie’s isn’t thrilled with the situation, she also knows she has a duty to her family, and Prince Henry (Nick Robinson) doesn’t seem so bad. Well, that’s until he throws her off a cliff into a cave as part of a sacrifice ritual. In the cave, Elodie’s hunted by a fire-breathing dragon, and she has to fight with all her might to survive. She discovers the names of the women who came before her, who all lost their lives trying to outrun the dragon. Will Elodie meet the same fate? Of course she won’t.

Given that this is a reversal on the idea of damsel in distress – she saves herself – it’s pretty much confirmed that nothing bad is going to happen to her. This isn’t a good thing, since we’re never worried about her and this basically removes all tension from the spaces of the film. Damsel is predictable from start to finish, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if Elodie felt more real rather than just a girlboss. She’s also not in peril nearly enough. Oh, and did I mention the convenient healing glowworms she stumbles upon in the cave?

The dragon design is pretty sleek, though. Voiced by the incomparable Shohreh Aghdashloo, the dragon moves with a certain feline, yet ferocious grace. However, the narrative that involves the dragon doesn’t make a lot of sense, so the creature itself feels underdeveloped when its tale could have added to the feminist tone of the film.

There are some distracting factors as well, like inauthenticity when it comes to the actors’ appearance and setting. Brown’s character is wearing such heavy makeup, and looks far too modern – Damsel is a period piece – especially with the fake eyelashes. In other words, she looks like she’s seen an iPhone. The way she’s styled towards the end of the movie isn’t very suitable as well – she looks like she’s wearing some kind of prom dress.

For some inexplicable reason, the movie tries to make Henry more likeable. It spends quite a bit of time on Elodie and Henry’s first meeting, and Henry even attempts to explain himself to Elodie at the most inopportune time. Robinson also looks ill at ease the entire movie, probably because he isn’t sure what to do with this bizarre character.

Unlike Brown’s other Netflix project Enola Holmes, Damsel is narratively weak and the lead character underdeveloped. It reminded me quite a bit of The Princess with Joey King. We’re given this badass character that feels more symbolic than real, and that’s the most distressing thing of all.

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Despite Millie Bobby Brown's committed performance as Elodie, Damsel doesn't have quite enough spark to keep audiences entertained.