If you’re Lily James, it’s a long, long way from her accustomed upstairs Lady Rose lifestyle in Downton Abbey to her newest poor servant girl covered in ashes ‘downstairs’ lifestyle in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella. Ok, there was that one time she did wear that downstairs maid outfit in series four when she met up with a servant class gardener who took a fancy to her after protecting her on the dance floor, but that was only for a brief moment in one episode and she quickly reverted back to the Lady Rose lifestyle.
Kenneth Branagh’s forthcoming feature seems to be a pretty by-the-book, faithful take on the story of Cinderella. The Branagh-directed film follows the fortunes of young Ella (Lily James) whose merchant father remarries following the death of her mother. Eager to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera) into the family home. But, when Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Sophie McShera is no stranger to the upstairs/downstairs lifestyle as you might recognize her as Daisy on Downton Abbey. Actually, after seeing pics from Cinderella, you might not recognize her. Well, you know the story from here…
Ella is relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella. Despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” From those words, Ella’s take is “where there is kindness there is goodness, and where there is goodness there is magic”.
Good thing Ella is determined to not give in to despair nor despise those who mistreat her as timing is everything as she soon meets a dashing stranger in the woods (a.k.a. Prince Charming). Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an apprentice at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming Kit (Game of Thrones‘s Richard Madden). Unfortunately, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand, and a kindly beggar woman (Helena Bonham Carter) steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella’s life forever.
Branagh’s version, which closely follows the 1950 Disney animated film, also stars Hayley Atwell, Sir Derek Jacobi and Stellan Skarsgard and is set to hit the UK cinema on 27 March 2015. No word yet on a release date in America.