The movie, The Red Shoes: Next Step, revolves around the life of a young girl, Samantha Cavanaugh, who is an extremely gifted ballet dancer. Her world comes crashing down when she loses her role model, her elder sister, Annie, to a road accident in New York. She never wanted to fit into her sister’s shoes within the academy, but she did want to follow her as a role model. The film is full of anticipation of something good coming Sam’s way, even after a huge loss. The movie reeks of passion, enthusiasm, and motivation that would help real-life artists relate to the character.
We might mistake the film for a remake of the movie The Red Shoes (1948), but the two stories are completely different. While the old movie depicts a turmoil between romance and career, The Red Shoes: Next Step is the story of the struggle for fulfillment of one’s dream and living up to the expectations of a loved one. The film’s level of effort in expressing the passion for dance is similar to that of movies like Black Swan and Step Up. The direction of the film has been fantastically handled by Jesse Ahern and Joanne Samuel. The wide array of appealing songs like Glow, First Love, and Sacred add more depth to the film. Whether Sam is able to live up to the expectations of her sister is something for us to find out as we move forward with the film.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens in the Film?
Sam gives up on her hope to go back to her dance academy, Harlow, after the sudden demise of her talented sister, Annie. She joins a regular school near her home after the incident and meets a friend, Eve. Being distracted from her own goals, Sam does all kinds of impish activities and even goes to the lengths of shoplifting with Eve. When caught, she gets 200 days of community service as a legal punishment. Sam’s mother fears that her camaraderie with Eve might have had a bad impact on her and takes her back to the former dance institute Harlow, where she would serve the punishment. She had been instructed by the teacher to strictly abide by her duties and not bother her students. It is, however, later revealed that she was the one to bring Sam back to the academy because she knew how talented she was.
The academy constantly reminded Sam of her sister and the star that she was. She wanted to walk in the footsteps of her sister and complete the stage performance The Red Shoes that she had left unfinished the previous year. She never wanted to take the place of her own sister in the academy. On being compared to Annie by her instructor, she revolts and says that she is an individual and that she does not want to be anyone else. She has, however, now been replaced with another star performer, Gracie, who sees Sam as a rival.
When Gracie hurts her foot, Sam takes her place as the lead in the dance group to help others with the performance. She is not able to live up to others’ expectations initially, but later trains herself and practices to get back to her old form. Just when she re-discovers her old self in the training, she is again replaced as a backstage dancer by Gracie as she returns from the hospital. She is, however, not disappointed, as she has been able to get back to her passion for dancing. She invites her parents and friends to her show happily, just to see her dancing. However, things don’t go well with Gracie because, at the last moment, she faces excruciating pain in her foot, and she passes on the stage responsibility to Sam. Despite being reluctant at the beginning, she takes it up and gives it her best shot. The eight long minutes of the final dance by Sam are breathtaking and glue the audience to their seats without skipping a single moment of the graceful performance.
Why was Ms. Harlow so cold to Samantha?
Sam was one of the best students at Harlow Academy, but the loss of Annie had made her lose touch with her passion. Ms. Harlow did not have any kind of detestation for Sam; instead, she was keen on taking her back into the academy. She was the one to advise Sam’s mother to bring her back there so that she could relive her dreams. At the beginning of the film, Ms. Harlow appears to be cold towards Sam because she was hurt by her sudden decision to leave. She was a strict instructor who was very keen on perfection. She wanted Sam to master the dance, so she kept asking her to do the steps repetitively. She said she knew what Sam was capable of, which shows her belief in Sam when she had lost all hope. Her strict methods pushed Sam to practice harder, making her gain a grip on her confidence.
Ms. Harlow is seen keeping Annie’s room empty, as she had faith that Sam would return one day. She is the perfect example of a true instructor who has faith in her pupils, even when they are lost. She motivates Sam by taking her to watch one of her own performances from back when she was young and had lost her fiancé. She could relate to the situation that Sam was in, which gave her hope. She did not give up on Sam when she thought she could not dance any longer. Her stern appearance deceives the audience at the beginning of the film, but as the film progresses, she helps Sam live up to Annie’s dreams. She herself ties the pair of red shoes on her feet before the final performance. She calms her down and inspires Sam to build her own story, just like other great artists and performers. She wants her to be able to share her deepest fears, pains, and insecurities with the world, which would make her a true artist.
In my opinion, the movie is a great story of motivation for artists who have wandered off their tracks. This movie might be an awakening for them and re-ignite their passions. Sam has been able to live up to Annie’s expectations, making her not only a great sister but also a true artist in the process. The bond with her friend Eve also reveals her character as a human being. Sam has lived up to the expectations of not only her sister but has also been a true friend to Eve, being there as a support for her. Anne’s experiences and her ability to overcome tough situations are what have made her stand out in the crowd. We have noticed her frustrations with failing repeatedly, but her undaunting courage has helped her to stand firm even after such a great loss.
The overall story of the film was quite inspiring, but there were certain plot holes that were present. The scenes were quite haphazardly set, and the series of events were not in sequence, making it difficult for the audiences to understand sometimes. I had to go back and re-watch quite a few scenes! The movie also dragged on in certain parts, making it monotonous, but overall, it was not a complete waste of time. There was a lot that I picked up on a personal level from the film.