Sierra is a lover of books and movies who likes to provide thought-provoking analysis about the way our stories speak to our everyday lives.
We Don't Talk About Bruno, but Dolores Hears Everything
Disney's award-winning 2021 animated film, Encanto, was an instant family favorite. In the movie, Bruno and Dolores are part of the magical Madrigal family. Bruno is set up to be the villain because of his frightening powers. He can see the future and the hard truths he revealed to his family made him the least popular Madrigal in the Casita. By the time Encanto's bespectacled heroine, Mirabel, finds out about Bruno, his visions have already made him a family outcast for many years. We don't talk about Bruno, but cousin Dolores, whose power is super hearing, has known everything all along.
Bruno is a Second Generation Madrigal
Bruno is one of three children born to Alma and Pedro Madrigal. Shortly after Bruno, Pepa, and Julieta were born, the young Madrigal family was forced to flee their home as refugees. While Alma protected their infant triplets, Pedro faced the mounted men on horseback who were pursuing them, and tragically lost his life in the encounter. His sacrifice blessed the family with a miracle that took the form of a magical candle. The miracle also created a ring of mountains around the refugees to protect them, and a magical home for his family to live in. Alma raised Bruno, Pepa, and Julieta in this enchanted village built around their magical house.
The house, affectionately referred to as "Casita" by the Madrigal family, is also an embodiment of the Madrigal family miracle. It comes to life, much like the furniture in Beauty and the Beast. When a Madrigal child reaches a certain age, they are gifted with magical powers, and the Casita grows a magical door with their name on it, leading to a brand new room. Pepa, the mother of Dolores, Camillo, and Antonio, has the power to change the weather with her mood, though it doesn't appear that she can control it. Julieta, mother of Isabela and Mirabel, can bake food with magical healing powers. Bruno, who apparently is childless, was gifted (or cursed) with the ability to see into the future. By the time the movie begins, his magical room is already abandoned, and nobody talks about the mysterious Madrigal uncle who disappeared years earlier. Alma — now Abuela Alma to the five Madrigal grandchildren — is the head of the enchanted household.
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Bruno Was Probably Pressured to Use His Powers
Abuela Alma in her children and grandchildren a responsibility to take care of the village. In the film, we can see that the more useful the gift, the more the person is pressured to use it. Pepa, whose mood changes the weather, appears to have little control over what her powers are doing. We also see that Pepa isn't burdened with much responsibility, though those around her, like her son Camillo and husband Félix, appear to feel responsible for keeping her in a good mood. Julieta, whose baked goods can cure any ailment, has people lined up for miles, waiting to be healed. With a gift so special, it's no wonder we rarely see her unless she's cooking or handing out food. Camillo's playful gift of mimicry often causes him to be brushed aside as a nuisance, while Luisa's exceptionally useful super strength is exploited to the point that she's forced to over-extend herself. It's easy to see how Bruno could have been pushed just as hard, and pressured to give people answers about their future, even if they didn't end up liking what they heard.
We see the aftermath of Bruno's treatment at the start of the movie. In the opening number, all Mirabel has to do is say Bruno's name, and everyone within earshot pipes up with, "We don't talk about Bruno!" As Mirabel gathers more information, it becomes apparent that almost everyone in the village has a story about something he said. The people resent Bruno for being the bearer of bad news, but all he did was tell them the truth about what he saw. As Dolores would later observe, Bruno's gift was a heavy load to bear.
Bruno Was a Cautionary Tale for Dolores
Bruno and Dolores have exceptionally similar powers. Like her uncle, who can see things that haven't been revealed yet, Dolores can hear things that are hidden to others. Her super sensitive hearing makes her privy to all the secrets in the village, including Bruno's whereabouts. When Bruno was pressed for answers about what he saw, his honesty got him into trouble. Since Bruno didn't disappear until Mirabel was old enough to receive a gift, Dolores would have been old enough to realize what was going on when everything fell apart. There's no way Dolores could have missed the hard lessons Bruno learned about sharing everything when you know too much.
Dolores is more subtle. She would rather give hints, and nudge people in the right direction, than tell it all. We also see Dolores visibly nervous when questioned about what she has heard. While she does occasionally spill the beans, she also keeps a lot to herself. She told Isabela what she wanted to know about her boyfriend, while keeping her own feelings tucked away. She told Mirabel enough to understand why Bruno did what he did, but didn't completely out him either. It's as if Dolores learned that if people couldn't handle the truth, she would have to handle it for them.
Hole in the Plot or Not?
When Dolores eventually reveals that she knew the truth about Bruno all along, some fans cry foul, and claim it's a massive plot hole in the movie. After all, why didn't she just tell somebody? I actually think it's a brilliant way to show how perceptive young people can be. Dolores understood that Bruno lived in fear and that his humbling gift was used against him. She empathized with the burden of having too much information. It's no wonder she kept her uncle safely anonymous until he was ready to show himself on his own terms.