Girls are born to be warriors. We simultaneously and unselfishly protect ourselves and anyone who we deemed as a loved one. There is not a lot of thought that goes into those actions…we just act NOT react with pride and tenacity.
When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, steps in to replace her ailing father. One catch, while masquerading as a man (Hua Jun) she is truly tested forcing her to harness inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that transforms Mulan into an honored warrior, earning the respect of a grateful nation and making her father (Tzi Ma) proud of the tenacious young woman he has raised.
Yifei Liu embodies every bit of the warrior spirit and command in the lead role and through every single second she inhabits onscreen, playing each scene finely tuned. Not to mention the fact, that you get a special treat from her in the end credits – hint, hint. Her grace, beauty and ease on camera whether it’s slaying an epic fight scene or owning the stoicism needed to ground her character in reality are on full display at all times.
Director Niki Caro, provides a beautifully shot background (Thanks DP Mandy Walker) wrapped in red. Red, a color that represents so many things – the fire in Mulan’s belly to become best by any means necessary, the blood shed during battle and the blood that ties her to her beloved family, leadership and courage displayed while saving the very Army that denounces her, the longing for acceptance and the masculinity under wraps in order to conceal her true identity.
Not only is this a tale of tenacity, but one of love and support of another woman who possesses the same Chi – The Witch/XiannLang (expertly portrayed by the gorgeous Gong Li). One of the most profound moment is when The Witch tells Mulan she must embrace who she is and the power she possesses in being unique, which make the lyrics of the Christina Aguilera song ‘Reflection’ resonate even stronger and louder. Of course, the matchmaking scene (easily one of the favs leftover from the animated version) is meticulously recreated making it just memorable the second tie around.
It goes without saying that fans of the animated flick will not be disappointed as this films is a stellar production from it production, hair, makeup, costume and sound design all the way to the supporting cast, its star and all the women in major roles who collaborated to bring the story to life once again.
Just as in Yentl, another young woman is hiding in plain sight to prove that being loyal brave and true comes in more than one package thorough a cinematic love letter that turns dishonor into courage, resilience and love of one’s self. Produced by Disney, Ulan is streaming right now and a great film for families to be filled with fun and inspiration.