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“Damsel” is No Netflix Fairytale

The gritty, heart-stopping, dark fantasy film showcases Millie Bobby Brown’s acting range as she surprisingly survives betrayal from a Prince and a battle with a fearsome dragon
April 6, 2024
6:32 am

Fairytales paint the perfect picture of how a chivalrous and heroic prince rescues the lowly damsel in distress. Most people grew up believing in the prince’s power as he’d sweep the fair, distraught maiden away on a glorious white horse, and they’d live happily ever after. “Damsel” is not one of those stories; there’s no dashing, white-horse-riding prince, only a resilient heroine who rewrites history and saves women from suffering a cruel fate.


“Damsel” introduces us to Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown), the daughter of a Lord (Ray Winstone), who is forced into a marriage arrangement with the Prince of Aurea, Henry (Nick Robinson). Enthralled by his charisma, Elodie starts to fall for Henry, and they get along just fine till he betrays her to fulfill a family tradition. Elodie is left in a dragon’s lair to rot; to save her life, she struggles to survive by battling an embittered Dragon (Shoreh Aghdashloo).


Down the line, Elodie and the Dragon have a “girl-power” moment and realize that the real enemy is the royal family, not each other. Upon this realization, they band together to end the Aurea family lineage.



No one shines brighter in “Damsel” than its biggest star, Millie Bobby Brown, who is very different from her breakout role as Eleven in “Stranger Things.” In her most mature role yet, she proves she can be both a pretty face and a badass female lead who can carry her own weight in battle. Elodie, a girl from a land plagued by famine, is forced to become a woman overnight in a dragon’s lair, and Brown is the perfect woman to portray her.


Her performance is raw, gritty, and filled with emotions so deep that even the oceans might get jealous. Her scream queen moments are top tier too as she conveys the anguish that almost kills her after the betrayal by a man she was falling for (inserts her wails as she is hurled down unceremoniously from the mountains to the dragon’s lair).


What makes the plot of “Damsel” quite different from the other classic left-for-dead revenge tales is the backstory given to the Dragon. Usually, dragons are seen as fire-breathing monsters who leave havoc in their wake, but this Dragon has a surprisingly justifiable reason for hating humans. She was a mother, but her offspring were brutally murdered in an unprovoked attack by the first king of Aurea.


Netflix – Damsel

To quench her unbridled wrath, the King sacrificed his three daughters, and that tradition continued till the modern day when Elodie was offered as a sacrifice. By humanizing the Dragon, the film highlights the very thin line between good and evil. No one is ever truly born to be ascribed “good” or “evil,” but circumstances change people, like how it changed the Dragon.


The plot of Damsel is left in the hands of Academy Award-nominated director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo who has been noticeably absent from Hollywood for quite a number of years. His last film, the 2011 horror flick “Intruders,” was marinated with negative reviews from critics, but with “Damsel,” he makes a redemptive comeback. So don’t count him out of the A-listers game just yet.


There’s nothing overcomplicated about the film’s story because it avoids most of the plot traps that make a bad Netflix film. It never set out to be more than what it is, and from the get-go, audiences understand what they’re getting themselves into. “Damsel” plays it safe, and sometimes, that’s not always a bad thing!


In terms of cinematography, “Damsel” absolutely stuns with its vivid landscapes and diamond-encrusted lairs, but they look AI-generated and that takes away a chunk of the beauty of the film. Regardless, the film gets props for its chilling-to-the-bone, realistic CGI Dragon; she terrifies with such poise and grace that it’s hard to believe that she’s not real.


“Damsel” adds its two cents to the feminist narrative by putting its cliche-but-not-so-cliche spin on fairytale romances. The biggest lesson ever told in this Millie Bobby Brown-led dark-fantasy film is that women are their own heroes. Men should never say otherwise.


“Damsel” is available for streaming on Netflix.



Release Date: March 8, 2024

Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes, and 34 seconds

Streaming Service: Netflix

Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Ray Winstone, Nick Robinson, Shoreh Aghdashloo, Angela Bassett, and Robin Wright

TNR Scorecard:


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