The Greatest Movie Moments Of 2013

Frozen – Let It Go


Frozen is unique among the films discussed on this list, both because it is an animated musical and because its most powerfully emotional moment doesn’t come from its climax. Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), one of the picture’s two heroines, was born with the power to control and create ice and snow. She accidentally injured her beloved sister Anna (Kristen Bell) with that power when they were children, and her parents decided that the best thing they could do to protect their daughters was close up the castle and keep the children separate from each other.

Anna grew up lonely, isolated and longing to see the world and reconnect with the sister she was once close to. Elsa grew up lonely, isolated and absolutely terrified of her power hurting her sister or anyone else. The King and Queen tried to protect their children, but their efforts strained the girls’ relationship to the point that they became all but strangers to each other, and their eventual death left Elsa and Anna with nothing to turn to but the paths they were already set on. By the time of Elsa’s coronation, she is so afraid of her power that she refuses to touch anyone without wearing gloves, and she intends to continue isolating herself from her sister and her people for their own good. That plan shatters when an argument with Anna exposes Elsa’s powers. A visiting dignitary’s cruelty convinces Elsa that she is both dangerous and despised, and she flees her kingdom, inadvertently unleashing an endless winter in the process.

Frozen‘s strongest emotional moment comes at the end of Elsa’s flight from her kingdom. She runs to the top of an isolated mountain, and, convinced that she can never return to her kingdom or her sister, decides to embrace the power she had spent most of her life fearing. This being a musical, Elsa sings her character development in a song called “Let It Go.”  She marvels at the extent of what she can create, and her power’s surprising beauty. She declares that since she cannot be a part of civilization, she will embrace both her exile and her power. As she sings, she constructs an astonishing ice palace; rebuilds the heavy, drab gown she had been wearing into a stylish new garment that reflects both her power and her improving self-image and inadvertently creates sapient life in the form of Olaf, a snowman she and Anna had built as children. At the song’s end she declares that she will live in her newly raised palace, and that “the cold never bothered me anyway.”

“Let It Go” is not the climax of Elsa’s character arc. She does not yet know about the eternal winter she unknowingly unleashed, and she still believes that she has to isolate herself from her sister and her people. The last image of the scene is Elsa triumphantly slamming the doors of her ice palace. She did create the palace herself, and she slams the doors with her power, indicating that she has accepted her power as an inherent part of herself, but she is still cutting herself off from the world. It is very much a midpoint for her story, and she has a long ways to go, but she has come a long way. The best, most positive thing about “Let It Go” is that Elsa embraces her power as an inherent part of herself. She stops fearing herself and does something for herself, rather than sacrificing her happiness and stability for the sake of others.

Frozen‘s climax sees Elsa embrace the world she had run from and rebuild her relationship with Anna, while affirming that they had always loved each other; the initially self-loathing, isolated young queen’s arc ultimately sees her become a woman who will rule well and be a good sister. But before Elsa can come to terms with the world around her, she has to come to terms with herself, which she does over the course of “Let It Go.” While Elsa’s conception of her role in the world remains flawed and isolating through the song, her self-image improves immensely. She begins the song a morose, despairing wreck and ends it a triumphant, happier, healthier person. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck convey her change through her body language, the beautiful, impressive nature of her power, her transformed wardrobe and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s elegant, catchy songwriting. All these elements; character design, world design, costume design, songwriting, animation and Menzel’s strong performance come together to create a moving, memorable piece of positive character development that cements Elsa as one of 2013’s most interesting heroines.