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Soundtrack review: A little princess (Patrick Doyle, 1995)

Composer of the month Patrick Doyle month

Soundtrack review: A little princess (Patrick Doyle, 1995)


It was an early winter Sunday morning many many years ago and I was zapping through the TV stations. I don’t remember what made me stop and watch this movie. Maybe I saw the little girl crying and I wanted to know what was wrong…Maybe I stumbled upon one of the visually stunning scenes that Alfonso Cuaron created (he’s the guy that brought us “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Gravity”) and remained hypnotized…Either way, I caught “A little princess” almost at the beginning, and from that single viewing the movie has stuck in my memory as one of my favorite childhood fairy tale movies.  I can’t wait to see it again with my wife and my daughter…It’s the story of a little girl who goes from a fairy tale life in India to being relegated to a life of servitude in a New York City boarding school by the headmistress after her rich father apparently dies in World War I. It’s the latest and most critically acclaimed in the long line of adaptations of a famous book.
Patrick Doyle is as skillful and sensitive in creating sounds as Cuaron is in creating images. This time, there is no orchestral wonder and no exaggeration. Doyle used the softest of brushes here and made the fantasy even better. The movie is a beautiful and enchanting story, and the music brings extra magic to it. Everything about this score is as fragile as a child’s world and it very often steps into the land of fantasy. It’s an eternal child’s Christmas in this score… the music is full of dreams and wishes and it never loses hope. It feeds my nostalgia for this movie and I can just close my eyes and remember the boarding school, the rooms where the girl was hiding, her fantasies of being a princess again and the longing she felt for her lost father.
Patrick Doyle manages to sneak a magnificently intense and haunting cue when the scenes focus on the father…In ”Crewe and the soldier” the majestic orchestra and the children’s choir combine for the most dramatic and memorable single cue of the score.
The New London Children’s choir blesses the listener with their angelic voices in cues like “Angel wings”, “The attic” and “On another’s sorrow”. The music flows gently, never losing the connection with the dream world. The lullaby and almost prayer like sound of these cues break your heart for the young girl and make you wish even harder that she’s reconnected with her father. There’s a string of even more amazing and enchanting carols where the choir sings the girl’s fantasies: “Tyger tyger”, “Compassion”, “For the princess” and “Kindle my heart”. These cues will conquer your hearts and make you hug your children and make one of their wishes come true… “Kindle my heart” is actually sung by Abigail Doyle, the composer’s daughter. Harry Potter fans will surely appreciate the world Doyle created.
“The locket hunt” is a gorgeous adventure cue. “Just make believe” is the most magical track from the entire score…
Every cue from “A little princess” is a gem and a piece of fantasy. The score is one of the sweetest and most whimsical scores I’ve heard. Patrick Doyle managed to turn a score into a fantasy world of its own. This territory is for dreamers only. This score is for the ones with the most vivid of imaginations, for the children in you, for the ones who still believe in magic. Nostalgia and emotional connection are a big part of my love for a score. I cannot be objective about some of them, because they are a part of me, they are as precious as any other pleasant or intense memory.
The little girl in the movie became the princess she knew she was, when her father returned from the dead…The actress who played the part so perfectly mirrored Sara Crewe’s destiny and also became a princess in her own way: she starred in only two movies, as a child, before moving on with her life as heiress of the Hyatt Hotels fortune, part of one of America’s wealthiest families and world renowned philanthropist…Doesn’t this score sound even more magical now…?
My ratings:
Cue rating: 92 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 45 / 50
Album excellence: 91%
Cues to listen to:
Christina Elisa Waltz
The Miss Minchin School For Girls
Knowing You By Heart
Letter To Papa
Angel Wings
False Hope
The Trenches
Crewe And The Soldier
The Attic
On Anothers Sorrow
The Shawl
Tyger Tyger
For The Princess
Kindle My Heart
The Locket Hunt
Midnight Tiptoe
I Am A Princess
Just Make Believe
Touched By An Angel
Emilia Elopes
The Escape
The Goodbye
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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