Warning: spoiler alert!
Disney.True story. Academy Award winners. High rating on Rotton Tomatoes. I’m in. Disney is consistently good at tugging on my heartstrings, especially when it comes to themes of overcoming adversity and family.
In hindsight, there shouldn’t be any expectations for anything creative with the story development. Young girl stands out as special, shows promise, encounters resistance, gains friends and momentum, bigger setbacks, faces root problems, breakthrough, climax, then happiness and rainbows.
While I wasn’t expecting to be impressed with any unique plot twists, I knew that Disney would be masterful at executing the five acts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. This was no different.
Absolutely loved the movie. One of those heartwarming movies that makes you think about life, hope, dreams, family, and what truly matters. Great family movie, but also inspirational to the individual.
“Challenges are not curses”
This movie embodies the lesson that every difficulty is an opportunity to grow. All of us go through struggles in life, some with more than others. But when you watch the story of a girl from an impoverished town Uganda, born into a family with hardly anything besides the clothes on their backs, become a chess champion, there’s a certain magic that you can’t help but be inspired by. It almost removes all the excuses off the table. It’s the classic underdog, Cinderella story that we know and love.
Not only are challenges opportunities to become stronger, they’re also not permanent like a curse. The human will is a powerful thing, especially when the person knows the reason that drives them.
“The pawn can become the queen”
Its not about where you come from, it’s where you’re going. This idea is beautifully represented when Phiona learns the rules of chess and discovers that a simple pawn can become the most powerful piece by moving forward one step at a time. In essence, it’s better to start as a pawn and have the potential to be a queen than to start and stay as a bishop, for example, without the ability to progress.
“Never tip your king”
Through Phiona’s journey in chess, we learn resilience, strength, and never giving up. As her coach said from the start, Phiona was a fighter. Whether she was being bullied by other kids, facing intimidating chess opponents, or being pushed down by life at home, her success was a testament to her ability to keep getting back up.
The theme that always gets me the most is family. It’s almost guaranteed a softie like me will cry when it has anything to do with familial loyalty and love. The foundation of the family was Phiona’s mom, without question. Despite being a single parent with one child passed away and another run away from the house, she was tiredlessly devoted to protecting and proving for her family.
I loved the moment when her mom threatened and chased away some boy trying to pick up Phiona. Phiona screamed at her “I will never forgive you,” to which she promptly replied, “I don’t care about your forgiveness.” Her number one priority is taking care of her kids.
Even though there was initial resistance for Phiona’s chess career, she eventually was supportive because she knew the opportunity to have her children go to school would give them a better life. She could have been selfish and demanded to keep them home with her. But like a truly caring mother, she put her kids first and supported them. In the end, Phiona was able to give her mother the one thing she wanted to give her mom from the start: a new home. Nothing touches my heart more than when a son or daughter gives back to their parents tenfold for all the unconditional love and support they’ve received in the pursuit of their dreams.
Nutshell/recap: An inspirational story of a talented girl overcoming all odds and using chess to change her whole world.