Saturday, June 14, 2014

Belle, a Movie Review

The story for the film Belle started with a portrait found in an English manor home of two young ladies, obviously both of the upper class. However one was a fair English lady with blond hair and the other was a young African lady. A curious writer sought to learn just who was this upper class young African lady was in the painting. 

No spoiler here, the young African lady, Dido Elizabeth Belle, was the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who claimed her and wanted to raise her. He left her in the care of his uncle to raise while he was at sea. The Uncle happened to be the Lord Chief Justice of England. 

The movie is a great story of family and society norms in England in the late 1700's. As Dido grows up she must thread the English upper crust ways of love, marriage, dowries, and race. And in the midst of it all, Lord Mansfield, her great uncle has before him the case that could decide the fate of slavery in England. 

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the role of Belle with the grace of a true lady carrying no bitterness of the parts of Society cut off from her simply due to her color. Tom Wilkinson as Lord Mansfield, accepts Dido into the family and never questions her place there although there are times he worries about the consequences for her as a black girl in the white aristocracy. 

I was concerned that this would be a movie about a head strong belligerent young lady who was bitter at her lot in life and determined to change the social norms. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the story to be that of a young lady who is brought up with enough love and confidence who is well aware she is the heir of her father's estate and a member of the aristocracy, whether or not some of those around her are willing to accept it or not. Although she must endure the thoughtless remarks of many ignorant people. Instead of rubbing it their faces, she simply stays above the fray and lets them wallow in their ignorance.

The costumes, English scenery, strong supportive cast, and well written screen play make this an enjoyable film. I fear it did not get the publicity it needed. However, when the Academy makes its nominations later this year, there may be some nods here and the movie will most likely be re-released for those who overlooked it initially.

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