Anybody who knows me, knows I am a bit of a film buff. I love watching and experiencing them at the cinema, at home, on netflix, with friends. They’re a gateway into the unknown and can be an incredibly powerful form of story telling, so I recently went to see The Greatest Showman and I’ll very soon be watching it for a third time in the space of four days, to say I was taken aback by the film would be an understatement. It’s a film that left me feeling something incredible.
The story follows the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, or P.T Barnum as he is commonly referred to in the film. He was responsible for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus and it’s this in particular that the story focuses on, amongst other things such as family life, love, and a few musical numbers are thrown in there too. Now if you’re the type of person who will go into a film questioning everything, you have to know that if you go to see The Greatest Showman then there are a few moments which will leave you thinking “pfftt well that wouldn’t happen!” but you have to have an active imagination. After all, it is a musical and whilst there may be a very slim chance of seeing an elephant wandering in the snow or a couple of horses modelled after zebra’s it’s the magic of believing in something more that will have you hooked.
The story really should appeal to anybody, you can see this film with your nan, your significant other, your mum or your dad, your little sister and it speaks volumes. Following P. T Barnum on his quest for success takes you down many twists and turns and you’ll see families grow, relationships fall apart and whilst I’m not sure exactly which parts are more sensationalised for Hollywood the film is inspired by true events.
There’s a lot of big names in the film and a lot of new faces, Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron play the two leads and have great chemistry together. It’s quite weird seeing Zac Efron in a proper musical again, he hasn’t really done one since his High School Musical and Hairspray days!
Michelle Williams plays Barnum’s wife and then you’ve got Rebecca Ferguson playing the opera singer, Jenny Lind. The cast of circus folk are all played by unknowns, as far as I’m aware except Zendaya who I believe is from that popular channel known as Disney. I couldn’t really fault anybody in all honesty and I thought Zendaya’s character was probably one of my favourites although she’s sort of off on the side of the main story, her vulnerability was really sweet to watch and her duet with Efron is a very touching scene.
For once I actually liked Zac Efron’s character as well, it was certainly a long way away from the usual jock-type “look at me” he usually plays. In the beginning you may be forgiven for thinking that may be so, but as the film progresses he really comes into his own and shows a lot of integrity and spirit.
I don’t even know where to begin with the music. The film kicks off with an incredible number from Hugh Jackman and is one of the strongest openings of any musical I think I’ve seen. From the moment Jackman tilts his head and drops that cane on the floor, you know you’re in for a show stopper. Every single song is written perfectly and the quality of each track is phenomenal, I had goosebumps the entire time and the writers really showcase the power of music particularly with the well publicised ‘This is Me’ sung by Keala Settle, my personal favourites had to be ‘Rewrite the Stars’ and ‘The Other Side’
Even if you’re not a fan of musicals, I would find it near impossible to find somebody who wouldn’t be toe tapping along. The powerful anthem of ‘This is Me’ just reverberated through my entire being, I felt close to tears and I can’t stress how well each track is bought to life. Even my dad, who isn’t a massive fan of musicals in general, came out loving it.
Rebecca Ferguson doesn’t actually sing in the film, instead it is the voice of Loren Allred who some may remember from The Voice in the USA. Her solo song though is incredible, it’s called ‘Never Enough’ and really builds up from a subtle beginning to a belting ballad and it will absolutely knock your socks off.
Overall, I found The Greatest Showman to be one of the most heartwarming, uplifting and feel-good films of the last decade. There are so many things that made this film for me, from the great music, the incredible cast, the beautiful visuals, but in truth it made me feel powerful. It made me feel determined. It made me feel so much of everything I was overcome with emotion and even if I listen to the soundtrack alone in my tiny little flat, I feel that all over again.
The way they portrayed each character from the circus folk, to the posh crowds, the folk on the streets, the audience members at the circus. Everybody can relate in some way to at least one or a few of the characters and there’s so many themes than run through the film. The importance of family, the kindness of strangers, the important of self belief and being true to yourself, the determination to never back down or give in. It’s a film for the weak, for the vulnerable, for anybody who’s ever felt like part of a minority or that they weren’t good enough, for anybody that’s felt judged. It’s a film that says “just hold on” and in the most glorious and powerful way; through music.
Let it be known, this is a film for everybody; for the bullies and for the bullied, for the afraid and the unafraid, for the weak and for the strong because at some point in your life you’re going to feel pushed out or pushed down and your mental strengths will be tested and that emotion is universal for all of us irrespective of the circumstances. The power of self belief is strong, the power of music is second to none and the joy that one film can bring is undeniable.
If you’re going to see just one film this year, please let it be this one!