My Encanto Takeaway: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”


Disney’s 60th animated movie Encanto, with its brilliant colors and fabulous music, shows us the family Madrigal’s journey of acceptance and healing. It also teaches us the importance of mental wellness for all family members. Upon watching the film, I was charmed, and even a little healed. (And don’t we all need a little healing in these times?) I found that each character struggled with self-acceptance and acceptance of one other, which resonated with my experience of family. Because of this, I was able to begin a conversation in my family around the character Bruno. Bruno is a central character in the story who struggles with his mental health as he lives his days in isolation from his family.

We don't talk about Bruno Encanto TakeawayEncanto Synopsis (spoiler alert)

In Encanto, the matriarch of the family, Abuela, inherits a candle after a family tragedy. The light from the candle emits magic. The magic is symbolic of her chance to rebuild after having triplets, and losing her home and husband.  The magic is granted to each family member, bestowing special powers upon them. Throughout the film, family members work to maintain the magic by living up to the expectations of success and conformity set by Abuela. However, something unknown disrupts the magic. The candle’s flame dims and the house begins to show cracks. Those with magical powers begin to lose them. It’s as if the whole family is being crushed by the weight of unrealistic expectations. Those who cannot meet them are isolated.

Mirabel: The Main Character

Mirabel is one of the grandchildren and the only family member who did not inherit a magical ability. She is convinced that she will win her Abuela’s acceptance if she can solve the mystery of the fading magic. Her search for a solution leads her to peer into the family lore surrounding Bruno, the ostracized and isolated uncle.  Bruno’s family did not accept his gift, so he self-exiled due to the pain of being ridiculed.  He lives his life parallel to the family, hiding in the walls of the home with rats and the voices in his mind as company.

Mending a Broken Relationship

Just talking about Bruno is taboo. When Mirabel finds Bruno, he provides her with a vision of the future (his magical power). This vision requires Maribel to heal one of the hardest relationships in her life: the one with her older sister Isabela.  Mirabel must overcome her disdain for Isabel’s perfection and obtain a genuine hug.  She succeeds when she inspires Isabel to focus on being more self-expressive and less focused on filling the roles and expectations of other family members.  Mirabel inspires Isabel’s self-acceptance.

The Conclusion

After Mirabel’s first act of healing the magic between her and her sister, a cascade of events unfold. The film culminates when Abuela realizes that her pressure on the family to maintain the perfection of the magic has shut family members out. It has fractured the love and joy of the household, which causes the family’s house to crumble.  In a beautiful moment, Abuela reflects on the trauma of her isolation after losing her husband and raising her triplets alone. She realizes that once the magic arrived, she was “So afraid to lose it” that she lost sight of what she gained in her family.  Abuela brings Mirabel and Bruno back into her embrace and she releases herself to accept and love each of her children fully. She realizes she must place less expectations on the magic she was so desperate to preserve.

What We Gain from the Themes of Encanto

Disney brought to life a very relatable family dynamic: Expectation vs acceptance and its impact on the mental wellness of a family. Bruno and Mirabel find in each other the ability to help their family restore the magic when others have isolated them. In their example, Abuela realizes that her response to her own trauma has prevented her from fully appreciating the gifts of each family member. Encanto is full of conversation starters for kids around acceptance of self and others.  Not to mention the conversations around mental wellness and its impact on family outcomes.

How I Discuss the Film’s Themes with My Family

After seeing this movie, I can now point to it within my own family and ask some questions. What do you think about the role of acceptance in healing the magic? Did you notice how Bruno is neurodivergent and the only family member living in isolation? Finally, what does it mean to accept the variance of mental wellness within our family?

Encanto delivered a welcome surprise in the hoopla of winter holidays by focusing on the restorative magic of acceptance. It helped us see the family’s role in promoting and protecting mental wellness for each other.  With the success of the film and the hit song, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (now charting at #7 on the Billboard 200) I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more talk about Bruno and the impact of mental wellness on our outcomes. This is a conversation every family can benefit from.