Sugar ‘n’ spice and everything nice and not-so-nice is what The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is all about. Set in the Victorian era London, the film takes a different angle on the original story by E.T.A. Hoffman, The Nutcracker and the King of Mice.

Mackenzie Foy plays the intelligent and perseverant young Clara, who follows a string, which is supposed to be tied to her gift at a Christmas Eve ball hosted by her godfather, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), which takes her into a different world made of four realms — the Land of Flowers, the Land of Snowflakes, the Land of Sweets and the Land of Amusement. The gift by Drosselmeyer, also a skilled engineer, is a key, which would help her open a handcrafted egg that her widowed father, Benjamin Stahlbaum (Matthew Macfadyen), gave her the same Christmas morning to fulfil his wife’s (Anna Madeley) wish, who had died some time ago and it was the family’s first Christmas without her.

When Clara is about to get her hands on the key, a mouse runs away with it, and thus her adventure begins in the colourful and evocative realms where she encounters more characters from her mother’s toy world as a child including the Sugar Plum Fairy (played by Keira Knightly) also the Regent of the Land of Sweets, the nutcracker soldier Captain Philip Hoffman (played by Jayden Fowora-Knight), tin soldiers, the Mouse King and his army of mice and Mother Ginger (played by Helen Mirren) also the regent of the Land of Amusements, from who Clara has to defend the realms.

A ballet performance by Misty Copeland adds to the aesthetics of the movie, and was about the only feature that captivated an adult like me. I found that generally, it was more enjoyable for younger audiences only, especially young girls. Yet, it has a number of positive reinforcements: Clara’s character as a confident young girl who wants to figure out inventions and machinery is very refreshing along with her courage to lead and work with a team.

Also, the movie’s central characters depict two opposite ends of the human spectrum. The protagonist and antagonist both act out of loneliness and grief, one is full of self-doubt, but is adamant to learn from her mistakes and use her talents, while the other has gone bitter due to her sense of abandonment. In the end, things turn out to be the best for the one who learns to believe in herself.

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 17th, 2018