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‘Elemental’ Nails the Experience of Children of Immigrants Within a Love Story

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The latest emotional film from Pixar, Elemental, is a romantic-comedy story that takes place in Element City where elements of all shapes and sizes reside and share space with one another. When an expecting Fire couple, Bernie and Cinder Lumen move into the big city, they are forced to create their own district called Firetown and raise their daughter Ember. Ember’s intent is to eventually take over her family’s shop and allow her parents to live a relaxing life. However, everything changes when Ember meets Wade Ripple, a water element who helps her begin to reflect on what she truly wants in life as the two begin to fall in love. 

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(l-r) Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie voice Ember Lumen and Wade Ripple in Pixar’s “ELEMENTAL”. All Rights Reserved by Pixar Animation Studios.

It’s no surprise at all that Elemental is a story about love. But it is also a story that explores other themes that hit close to home. Through the characters of Ember and Wade, there is a discussion about accepting and processing our emotions, and learning to be confident in how we feel, no matter what. But through Ember and her parents, there is a deeper conversation regarding immigrating to someplace new, facing xenophobia, and the experience of being a child of immigrant parents. 

While it’s incredibly easy to look at the overall story and assume it would be difficult to relate to, that is simply not the case. Within the film, Fire people like Ember and her parents are inspired by the Korean-American experiences of the director, Peter Sohn, who poured his heart and soul into the film. However, their culture comes across as a mixture of various cultures we’re familiar with, especially South Asian and Middle Eastern. We see this in even the smallest things, such as the text we see animated across numerous buildings or the unique sounds used within the energizing score composed by Thomas Newman as well as the catchy original song, “Steal the Show” performed by Lauv.

(l-r) Ronnie del Carmen, Leah Lewis, and Shila Ommi voice Bernie Lumen, Ember Lumen, and Cinder Lumen in Pixar’s “ELEMENTAL”. All Rights Reserved by Pixar Animation Studios.

But even beyond the cultural additions to film, the primary themes regarding emotion and expectations apply to all of us in some way or another. We’ve all snapped and lost our temper or even just burst out crying at some point, all without realizing why we feel a certain way. In such a simple and unexpected way, Elemental talks about how we all experience emotion on a physical level and how it can be a way of alerting us to internal conflicts that we need to handle. 

And despite the heavy themes regarding immigrant parents and the relationship they have with their children, it’s safe to say we’ve mostly all felt some sort of pressure to fulfill the expectations of our parents. Whether it’s because we understand the struggles and sacrifices our parents made for us by moving to someplace new, or because we simply don’t want to disappoint our parents, we do what we do for them primarily out of love. 

(l-r) Mamoudou Athie and Leah Lewis voice Wade Ripple and Ember Lumen in Pixar’s “ELEMENTAL”. All Rights Reserved by Pixar Animation Studios.

The best part that supports all the thematic elements, character choices, and music is the animation. The world building of the film amongst the main four elements is spectacular and full of color. It’s clear what district we’re in or what part of the city we’re in based primarily on building design. In addition, we get to see the citizens of the city, and the absolutely beautiful things they can do and create. There are several moments where elements mix and come together which can either be simplistic or absolutely breathtaking. And in pure Pixar style, a single facial expression can represent so many emotions at one time. Confusion, hurt, longing, love, happiness. 

Tying it up in a neat little bow are the voice actors that bring every character to life along with their hopes and dreams. Leah Lewis and Mamoudou Athie are perfect as Ember and Wade as they offer opposite energies that attract and mesh well together. Meanwhile, Ronnie del Carmen and Shila Ommi as Ember’s parents are hilarious and lovable, as well as reminiscent of any immigrant parent. 

Leah Lewis voices Ember Lumen in Pixar’s “ELEMENTAL”. All Rights Reserved by Pixar Animation Studios.

Allowing a film like Elemental to marinate and grow on you is essential. On the surface, it’s an adorable love story similar to any film with an iconic Disney Princess that we all grew up with, and children are sure to enjoy this side of the story. But if we dig a little deeper, it’s a story of embracing how we are feeling, addressing our internal conflicts, and learning to pursue our own goals while also having unlimited amounts of love for our parents. It is ultimately a story for those who are afraid they won’t be able to satisfy expectations, but will do anything we can to make others’ sacrifices worthwhile. But it is also a film that others can watch, despite knowing exactly who this story was created for, and walk away with an appreciation that stories like Elemental are now being made for us. 

Samosa Rating:  

Pixar’s Elemental receives 4.5 out of 5 Samosas. 

Elemental is now playing in theaters.
Runtime: 1h 42m

If you want even more film discussions, reviews, or just some good old recommendations, be sure to follow @samosasandpopcorn on TikTok!

Pooja Chand
Pooja Chand
Known on other platforms as Samosas and Popcorn, Pooja is a movie enthusiast topped with sprinkles of her love for TV. She can typically be found watching anything from the latest blockbuster movie to a feel good anime, and is always ready to start the discussion on movies and TV so you don't have to.

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