Film: Ever After: A Cinderella Story
Featured Characters: Danielle de Barbarac and Prince Henry
Ever After is genuinely one of the most remarkable film adaptations of Cinderella. It is full of multidimensional characters and a beautiful love story that allows Danielle de Barbarac (Drew Barrymore) and Prince Henry (Dougary Scott) to get to know each other and fall in love naturally.
Danielle’s backstory does not differ much from all the classic retellings other than the progressive views she treasures. Her father fed Danielle’s thirst for knowledge and proclivity to read with his gifts of books from his travels. Her scholarly traits are a tether to her late father and give her a sense of purpose even in her daily life that revolves around her stepfamily. Then there is Prince Henry, who feels trapped in a completely different cage, a gilded one full of privilege and one borne of his own ignorance. Henry is given a chance to grow in this film, and his development pushes their love story further.
Danielle de Barbarac and Prince Henry: Passions
Henry has no passion; he is searching to find a purpose (outside of eventually ruling France one day.) But, his spoiled life did not allow him to learn about himself or the people he would lead. He may have read the books but doesn’t know how to connect them with reality. His privilege disconnects him from those below his station, and he struggles to see the correlations between what he has learned and how it affects his people and politics. It isn’t until he meets Danielle that he is forced to confront his shortcomings and find a purpose because of her. Faced with Danielle’s passion for intellectual pursuits and the good of her fellow compatriots, Henry looks into himself and learns from her.
More importantly, they both challenge and inspire growth in the other. Henry becomes a safe space for Danielle to be herself outside her stepmother’s reign. Danielle doesn’t care what Henry thinks of her (or so she tells herself) in the role she plays as a courtier. There is freedom in Danielle unapologetically being herself and speaking on what she values. Doing this pushes Henry, and she enjoys it. Danielle finally gets to talk about what she is passionate about to someone who can bring about change. He rises to the occasion each time she pushes, and then their conversations stay with him.
Out of their Cages
Even though Danielle keeps her identity hidden, these stolen moments with Henry set her free — proof that she was meant for far more than servitude. It’s authentication of the detail that Danielle de Barbarac and Prince Henry have been waiting long to be seen for who they are. Danielle hasn’t had someone truly see her since her father passed. Henry does not feel as though his parents see him; they expect him to go through with an arranged marriage, which is the last thing he wants. His parents expect him to do what is good for the country in their eyes. Then he meets Danielle. She is not impressed by him, and that lights a fire within. She sees him and his shortcomings, and he is not proud of the man she sees.
The time Danielle de Barbarac and Prince Henry spend together unlocks something in each of them. Away from their duties, they have fun together, and they can talk and have meaningful conversations. He learns more from Danielle than he ever did from his tutors, and Danielle thrives in having these deep and meaningful conversations. Their friendship is formed first, along with undeniable attraction, before any deeper romantic feelings settle while they get to be themselves for the first time in a long time. As Henry grows, he falls deeper. As Danielle sees the potential in him and the effort he makes, she falls deeper, too.
A Cinderella Story
Henry is a spoiled prince who is rash at times, and when he wants something, he is single-minded in getting it. But once it’s revealed by a person he does not care for that the woman he has fallen in love with lied to him in front of a massive ball, things are said that are not easy to overcome. Henry lashed out at Danielle because he bared his soul to her, and he didn’t know her name. All he knew at that moment was that he was more vulnerable with her than anyone else, and he didn’t know her true name or station. These basic things were lies. Henry was scared, he finally came into himself, and he wondered if it was a setup. It would’ve been better if he had more faith in Danielle or had given her a chance to speak when she first came to the ball. If he did give her that chance, his reaction would be different.
But the man was miserable and realized the errors of his ways. It was about what they had gone beyond names. He loved her for who she was and her views on life. He could not go through with the marriage his parents wanted when he finally learned what it is to be himself and to love. With her lost shoe, he found Danielle right after she freed herself from indentured servitude. Henry didn’t get to be the hero he wanted to be, so he had to face Danielle like an adult and own his mistakes.
Danielle was heartbroken and recognized they were both in the wrong. She misled him about herself; however, she bared her soul to him as much as he had to her. When he finally said her given name, Danielle was truly freed from her past. She loved him, and he was worth forgiving and forging a life with. In the Cinderella adaptations, the miscommunication trope makes plenty of sense, allowing both parties to look inward and grow stronger as individuals before embarking on a partnership.
Danielle de Barbarac and Prince Henry were both looking for purpose and found it in each other. They would constantly push and pull in the way all legendary couples make each other better. Together they could rule France with love.