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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Toronto MU chapter.

Spoiler Alert: This article mentions the plot points of the film Damsel. Reader discretion is advised.

After watching the three-minute trailer for Damsel, I was immediately captured and enthralled. The eerie music, dark caves, goosebumps-inducing growls of a slithery creature and suspenseful build-up had me thrilled for the film’s release.

After just a few days post-release, my girlfriend and I curled up in our respective homes on FaceTime, shrivelled in fear and heart-beating with stress, anticipating what we were about to watch on our screens.  

The film follows Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown), a daughter to a Lord, who is invited to marry Prince Henry (Nick Robinson) of the kingdom, Aurea, in order to financially support her people and home kingdom. On the day of her wedding, she is forced to engage in a ceremony where her blood is mixed into Henry’s before being shockingly tossed into a deep abyss that leads to a set of caves. 

It turns out that she is to be one of three women sacrificed every generation to a dragon living within the caves. This threat possessed by the dragon requires the blood of three royal women every generation to ensure it will not attack the kingdom. The dragon seeks these sacrifices as a form of compensation for her own three daughters, who were murdered.

Damsel does have a lot going for it. The set design is gorgeous and lush, and despite the film taking place mostly in one setting, it doesn’t grow stagnant due to the different caves and what’s inside each. In addition, the caves are often dark and shadowed, which does a brilliant job of building the mystery and suspense of what lurks within. The twists and turns create a tricky landscape for the protagonist, heightening the risks, and the tight spaces create a frightening atmosphere when Elodie struggles to escape a threat. 

The costume design was also enormously creative and thoughtfully selected throughout the film. In different instances, Elodie uses several fragments of her dress for survival. The puffs of her sleeves are used to collect glow-in-the-dark worms for a makeshift lantern, a tear of her dress is utilized to fasten a wound, and a crown is used to anchor herself when climbing. 

Furthermore, the costumes themselves have several historical elements, such as hoop skirts and corsets, and, according to the Recycled Movie Costumes blog, a pomander. Visually, I found them to be beautiful overall, too, with regal strokes of gold and beautiful jewelry.

The film’s storyline is not unfamiliar to lovers of the fantasy genre, whereby a hero is forced to defeat a threat within the kingdom. Though the film often remains in one set, with a very limited set of significant characters, it still manages to follow the typical plot line of a hero. 

Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, outlines twelve stages of a hero’s journey, and Elodie encapsulates several of these. For example, the first of these stages is the “ordinary world,” which is seen when Elodie is introduced through her cutting firewood for her home. The second stage is the “call to adventure,” whereby Elodie is sought out to marry the prince, with the third being “refusal,” in which she shows clear apprehension towards the proposal.

Throughout the film, there is a plot that is familiar and comforting but still manages to feel fresh due to the film’s consistent location and minor changes within the stages, as in the scene where Elodie’s mentors are ghosts and imaginings of the past women who have been sacrificed to and killed in the caves. They act as guides for her through the remnants of their attempts to survive, such as maps they drew of the cave and scribbles indicating where it’s safe.

I particularly liked this aspect of the film since it gave a voice to the past women who had been sacrificed, making the situation all the more realistic and grounded in history, which allows the film to be much more haunting and emotional. 

Despite my praise for the film so far, I definitely had my qualms with it as well. For one, I noticed a sore lack of characterization, especially concerning the main protagonists. Elodie is a character who is difficult to connect with due to her lack of depth. When a film leans almost entirely upon one character, I personally believe it to be of the utmost importance to make that character realistic, grounded, and relatable. 

This could be through establishing her interests and why they are important to her or incorporating stories of her past and goals for her future that go beyond a brief mention. This would have been significantly important in moments within the plot that focus on her family. I think there could have been more conversation and emotional complexity that she shared with those loved ones. Throughout the film, it felt like we, as viewers, were trying to be convinced of her depth through cheap methods. 

A key example of this is not truly exploring the relationship between Elodie and her deceased mother. Because of this, it never felt like the significance of Elodie’s mother was actually expanded upon or used to further develop Elodie as a character. Rather, her existence was used just to remind us that Elodie has experienced grief and should, therefore, be considered a character of depth.

In addition, I had high hopes that Elodie and the dragon would form a bond that felt realistically developed on the basis of mutual trust and understanding. Instead, they form an alliance in a matter of minutes through Elodie revealing that the dragon’s killings of the women had been something the royal family tricked her into thinking was actual compensation from them. 

This revelation felt entirely underwhelming since it feels illogical the dragon wouldn’t have been able to figure this out herself with the many obvious clues. Along with this, after the film spans hours of Elodie trying to escape the dragon’s menacing presence and intent to kill, for them to suddenly join forces in a matter of moments was disappointing. I had been hoping that the development of their friendship would be slow and move subtly from enemies to acquaintances.

The dragon herself was a character seeped in grief and long-lasting resentment, and I believe she could have been more fleshed out to become a character worth rooting for. In the film, she only realizes her mistake in murdering innocent women once she discovers they’re not technically royal but are only considered royal through marriage.

To me, this definitely wasn’t a satisfying redemption arch, nor did it add to her likability by the end of the film. I think it would have been more impactful to have shown her realizing her misdeeds due to their horrific nature rather than her targets having been mistaken.

There are also several plot holes that left me confused. For instance, how have so many women, who have all been promised to the same man, gone missing? And why has this never stirred commotion amongst their hometowns? If the dragon was able to assume the women in the caves were royal due to the royal family mixing their blood into the bloodstream of the women, how did she (the dragon) not detect the scent of non-royal blood? How did the dragon believe that there were this many women born into the royal family who were able to be spared as sacrifices?

There are many questions and too few answers, which leaves many loose threads.

Overall, I do think that the film was very exciting to watch despite the flaws in its storytelling. Most of all, it hopefully spoke of a future of fantasy-action media that stars more female leads, which can hopefully lead to a litany of similar media.

Salma Hamid

Toronto MU '26

Salma Hamid is a writer who is currently attending Toronto Metropolitan University, and majors in English. She enjoys writing both fiction and non-fiction pieces, specifically genres of romance, contemporary and history. These works often focus on culture, identity and relationships. When not in school, she enjoys watching films and YouTube videos, spending time with her friends, taking photos and videos, and walking through pretty trails that give room for ample daydreams.