Based on a classic 1930s novel (written by Noel Streatfeild) for girls, Ballet Shoes introduces us to the three orphans adopted by eccentric Great Uncle Matthew (Richard Griffiths) whose idea of giving his niece a gift is to bring home another orphaned infant before trotting off on another global jaunt. Unsurprising to all those versed in the real world, niece Sylvia (Emilia Fox) ends up raising the girls with the help of her own nanny (Gemma Jones) and a small fortune left behind from uncle while he was away.
Alas, the small fortune that Uncle left for them finally runs out, since, after all, he has been away on his adventures for over a decade. This leaves the household of women—including the girls Pauline (Emma Watson), Petrova (Yasmin Paige), and Posy (Lucy Boynton), all now teens—to come up with a plan to make ends meet before they lose the house. So they take on boarders.
The boarders, including a single female dance instructor, a couple of spinster professors, and a single man with a dark cloud of tragedy in his past, add a new spark of liveliness and creativity to the household. The girls are encouraged to enroll in the arts school, where Pauline shows an aptitude for acting, Posy for ballet dancing, and Pauline for, well, looking uncomfortable (she really wants to fly planes like her hero, pioneer female pilot Amy Johnson). Meanwhile Sylvia feels a kindred spirit in the young, sad widower Mr. Simpson (Marc Warren), and thinks that she may find some of her own happiness to pursue.
Ballet Shoes is a warm movie about an unconventional family, not just the orphans and their caretakers, but the family of the motley crew that move into their house. The girls are encouraged to pursue the arts, but are also taught humility. And they also learn that sometimes, especially in times of hardship, that selflessness can actually reap unexpected opportunities. The girls in Ballet Shoes not only dream, but they get to chase their dreams, and it is a nice message that all can appreciate.