A closer look at…Cinderella

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This is a child-friendly guide; some of the discussion questions are for younger viewers. children Cinderella is rated U – contains very mild scenes of emotional upset. The film is available on DVD.

Once upon a time there lived a happy couple who had a daughter named Ella (Lily James). They share a golden existence in their beautiful house until the tragic, premature death of Ella’s mother (Hayley Atwell). Before she dies she asks her daughter to do two things: ‘have courage and be kind’. These, she promises, will help her overcome the trials life throws at her. Time passes and Ella’s beloved father (Ben Chaplin) eventually remarries, bringing his daughter a Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and two stepsisters, Drizella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), to keep her company whilst he is away on business trips. But tragedy soon strikes again and Ella’s father dies too.

It soon becomes apparent that Ella’s new family have no intention of welcoming her. Over time she becomes their servant, left to do all the cooking and cleaning. Some nights she cannot find the energy to climb to her draughty attic room and so sleeps by the dying embers of the kitchen fire; leaving her covered in cinders come morning, and earning her the nickname Cinderella. Life is tough, but through all Ella remembers her mother’s instruction to ‘have courage and be kind’.  It is this spirit that captures the heart of Kit (Richard Madden), a ‘palace apprentice’ she meets by chance in the woods.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom’s young Prince is under pressure to choose a wife that will strengthen the country’s political footing. He is to make his decision at a lavish ball full of foreign princesses and, at the prince’s request, ordinary members of the public. Will Cinderella make it to the ball to meet Kit once again? Will they find out each other’s true identity? And will their families allow them their happily ever after?

For Kids

  • Did you enjoy the film? Why or why not? What were your favourite moments? If you have seen the animated film of Cinderella which one do you like best and why?
  • What were your favourite costumes in the film and why? What did you think of Cinderella’s house? What did you think of the Prince’s castle? What might it be like to live in both of those places?
  • Which parts of the film made you laugh? Did you find any particular characters funny? Why or why not?
  • What did you make of Cinderella? How would you describe her to a friend who hasn’t seen the film?

‘She saw the world not always as it was but perhaps as it could be.’  – Fairy Godmother


  • How does Cinderella see the world? How does she treat other people and the world in which she lives? If everyone saw the world like Cinderella how do you think it would be different?

Cinderella: Why are you so cruel?
Stepmother: Because you are young and innocent and good, and I…

  • What has happened in Cinderella’s Stepmother’s past to make her so mean? Is this a good excuse for acting so cruelly? In what ways are Cinderella’s stepsisters ‘ugly’ and why do you think they are so horrible to Cinderella?
  • How is Cinderella able to forgive her Stepmother for all the bad things she’s done? Have you ever had to forgive someone for something? Was it hard to do and, if so, why? Why is it important to forgive people?
  • In what ways are Cinderella and the Prince both trapped in their very different lives? How do they find happiness by the end of the film? What makes you happy in your life?


For Adults

  • What changes have been made to the traditional story of Cinderella in this film and what effects do these changes have? To what extent do you think these changes were necessary to enable a contemporary audience to relate to the story?
  • Several characters die in the film; what did you make of these deaths? Did you find them emotionally affecting? To what extent were they presented in a child-friendly way?
  • What do you think is the enduring appeal of fairy tales? What do children find particularly appealing in them?  Do adults enjoy them for the same reasons as children, why or why not? How might fairy tales help us to make sense of the world around us?
  • How do the characters of Cinderella, the Prince and the stepsisters resemble their parents? How would you describe the relationships that each has with their parents? In what ways do you think your parents/guardians helped to make you the person you are today?


‘Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done.’ – Cinderella

  • How does this line, spoken by Cinderella in the woods, challenge the Prince? How has the world been changed for the better by people who have challenged the morality of the status quo? How important is it for children to understand this principle?

‘Have courage and be kind.’ – Cinderella’s Mother

  • To what extent can Cinderella’s mantra make a difference in our lives? In your view, is it sufficient as a piece of wisdom for facing life’s hardships? Cinderella is presented as a wholly good character – does this make her an ideal role model, and why or why not?

‘This is perhaps the greatest risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we really are.’ – Fairy Godmother

  • In what ways do all of us mask who we really are? Why might revealing our true selves be ‘the greatest risk’ we can take? What spiritual and emotional factors might help us to ‘be seen as we really are’?


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