I have a long history with the children’s story A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve been excited to see the new Disney film based on the book directed by Ava DuVernay ever since it was announced.
I’ve been an educator for over 50 years. I’ve taught elementary grades, special reading, middle school, college, adult ed, continuing ed, and been a teacher trainer. For about 25 of those 50+ years, I taught fourth grade. Fourth grade, age 10, is the prime audience for A Wrinkle in Time.
Every year, I read A Wrinkle in Time aloud to my 4th grade students. I’ve read the book a lot of times with a lot of 10 year olds. I can’t remember even one child who didn’t love it. I loved it. Every book written by Madeleine L’Engle is wonderful, but A Wrinkle in Time is one of the best children’s stories every written. A masterpiece.
With that in mind, I went to see what Ava DuVernay would do with this favorite story of mine.
This film version of A Wrinkle in Time is magic. It will enchant legions of wide-eyed children who will watch it over and over.
Its messages of strength, self-worth, love, and power are perfectly delivered in short memorable bits that resonate vividly. Choosing Oprah Winfrey as Mrs. Which, the deliverer of ancient wisdom, was inspired casting. She already has a position in American society as a woman of wisdom who advocates using the power of love to defeat evil. Reese Witherspoon was perfect as the young and sometimes clueless Mrs. Whatsit. Mindy Kaling was glorious as Mrs. Who.
But the protagonist of the story was and is Meg Murry, played with grace and nuance by Storm Reid. She did everything – doubt, fear, rebellion, love, determination – and did it well. It’s so powerful a statement to have Meg Murry be a natural haired, glasses wearing, rebellious girl of color. Her growth through the story will inspire young girls, but is especially wonderful for girls of color to see themselves represented on the screen as heroic.
In addition, Meg and Charles Wallace are in a school with well placed images of Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and other black positive symbols and messages.
The other child actors – Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace and Levi Miller as Calvin – were wonderful as well. Deric McCabe was pitch perfect as the genius Charles Wallace and teen Levi Miller was suitably googly eyed over Meg.
Chris Pine and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the parents were warm and lovable. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Zach Galifianakis as the Happy Medium. In short, the cast was well chosen and really delivered.
The film was magical and fantastical. I found myself smiling at how beautiful it was. The Mrs. in their amazing outfits. Mrs. Who especially had wonderful costumes. I’d like a way to examine the messages in the costumes in depth. The colors, the special effects, the tesseract, Camazotz, and the evil mind of It were a visual treat.
I thought the special effects were well done. The friend who went with me thought they were overdone, but if you’ve read the book, you know they were an attempt to create what Madeleine L’Engle described.
The symbolism was clear enough for a child to understand. Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who were manifestations of the light. Charles Wallace was openly in touch with them. Camazotz and the evil brain called It were manifestations of evil, of darkness.
When Charles Wallace was capture by It, Meg was able to save him with nothing but love. When Meg found her Dad she was able to take him home with a tesseract she created through her belief in her own ability.
I like the music chosen for the film. The songs were all sung by women, including Sade who wrote “Flower of the Universe” for the film.
In the scary sections of the film, and there were several, the music was big and bold orchestral music to add to the fear and trepidation.
Everything that made A Wrinkle in Time a great book is in the movie. The brave girl, the dangerous adventure, the happy ending. All the unique scientific details that went into making a story about traveling across the universe with the power of the mind are there. Importantly, in the film, there’s the added inclusion factor of actors of color and a setting in a mostly African American neighborhood. Those things weren’t in the book, which was released in 1962.
I consider the film a brilliant achievement by director Ava DuVernay and screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell. A worthy visualization of a timeless story. It’s a must see film. I’m convinced it will be as enduring as The Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life as a film to watch at least once a year for your entire life.