Family dynamics are at the center of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the sequel to Disney’s 2014 megahit. Now that Aurora (Elle Fanning) is all grown up, it is Maleficent’s (Angelina Jolie) task as her mother to ‘give her away’ in marriage to Prince Philip (played by Harris Dickinson this time around). But what happens when not just her mother, but his, are dead-set against the match?

The cast gathered at the Maleficent: Mistress of Evil press conference to celebrate the film and ponder such questions as those. Even though the dark fae raised Aurora to be a loving and gentle ruler, most humans still fear her as an agent of cruelty. After all, many believe she killed King Stefan in cold blood after cursing his daughter to sleep forever. And while the facts may be right, the context is missing. Because of this, Maleficent herself suffers an identity crisis.

Maleficent and the Unifying Power of Love

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Mother, daughter, and… friendly neighbor?

Then again, some might argue – onscreen and off – that based on those facts the Dark Fae doesn’t deserve the title of parent. After all, she is probably the only parent who became one thanks to their own sense of betrayal and rage, which they then imposed on an innocently sleeping baby. But everyone makes mistakes, right?

Regardless of those superficial differences, though, Jolie connected with the theme of family in Maleficent on a deeper level:

We are different. We’re different creatures. There are metaphors, and not to be heavy about it, but always a good film will have these messages. And there’s a real question [of how] we get pulled apart. People tell us, ‘Because you’re not the same, you’re not family. Because you’re not exactly like her, you’re not her mother.’ And that certainly strikes a chord with me.

“I think Maleficent questions whether she’s good enough to be a mother—and whether she is her mother,” Jolie explained. “We go through this period in the middle of the film where everybody is really focusing on their differences.” But as much as opposing sides may push against each other, one hopes that love always wins in the end. And it’s precisely that love which reminded Jolie of her own eldest son, Maddox.

Life Imitates Art

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Jolie relates to Maleficent.

With Maddox entering college, Jolie was asked if Maleficent: Mistress of Evil prepared her to send him off. “I thought I was preparing him to go,” she admitted. “You work so hard as a mother and think, ‘I’m really helping.” But in reality, it turned out that, “I realized the entire week was all for me. He was just making sure I was okay.”

That moment helped her acknowledge that her son was ready, which allowed her to feel the same. Furthermore, it echoed a significant scene in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil that the star touched on without spoiling the context. “I do remember there’s a part of the movie where I have to let her go,” Jolie recalled. “It wasn’t in the script, and I didn’t quite let her go.” As a mother, she declared, “That got me every time.”

Truth be told, what caring parent doesn’t need an extra push when it comes to letting their child roam free without them. University isn’t quite like impending marriage, but both require children to operate autonomously and leave the metaphorical sense. While Jolie herself struggled, though, it is Maleficent who puts on quite the show because of it.

Audiences will have a chance to see if they connect to Maleficent’s journey as a parent when Maleficent: Mistress of Evil premieres on October 18th. Before then, you’ll be able to read our review here.