There are some films worth waiting for. This recent costume drama was one I had seen raved about in reviews, Twitter and other spaces all by people I trusted, but it sat around my house for possibly a month after its release before finally its story came to life on the television.
Belle (2014) Film Review
Young Belle doesn’t fit in anywhere. She’s born of Jamaican and English descent, and to add more pain to the mixed birth, her father is of the aristocracy. She’s too grand a birth to fit in with the less fortunate, but not good enough to be accepted in full by English family. The father she doesn’t know takes her back to his family estate following the death of her mother. There he leaves her in the care of his uncle and aunt (Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson) before he leaves to comply with military duties. As an adult, she takes the name Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and is raised with her cousin, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon). She, like Elizabeth hopes to make a good match, only no respectable man will have her. This despite her being one of the most wealthy women in England.
When the family takes Elizabeth to London for the season, Dido goes along with no expectations. Until a young man, Oliver Ashford (James Norton) – a man from wealth, takes a keen liking to Dido. Also intrigued by Dido is a young, idealistic lawyer John (Sam Reid), who owes his education to Dido’s uncle. When the two quarrel over John’s passion to see equal rights given to all men, he goes without a respectable place in society; and Dido from acceptance in a world she watches from the outside.
Some cinematic masterpieces are of the sort that use a slower tempo of storytelling or a time and history to tell their story, which beautifully gives the audience a quieter story that is no less impacting as those that move at a lightning speed. Belle is one such story. I remembered seeing the beautiful promotion material back when the film was playing at film festivals. Then I forgot about it. Fortunately avid fans of the film were around to remind me.
Reflections of Amazing Grace aren’t difficult to pull from the script, even though Belle is generally a lighter approach to a movement that was important to the abolitionist’s beliefs. It gives us a hero who is willing to give up the opportunity for a chance at a prosperous life to champion his cause. The flip-side is a heroine who suffers as a result of her misfortune birth; one that allows her anything she materially wants, but limits her universal acceptance.
At first blush this does appear to be just another pretty face with its gorgeous promotional material. There is so much more to this pretty masterpiece. The script is fantastic in terms of Dido’s beliefs as well as the progression of her acceptance into society. Some of the characters may be shortchanged in the script or aren’t as evolved as they could be. However there is little to complain about in comparison to the loveliness you’ll find in this kaleidoscope of costume drama beauty. One of the more important and emotional issues that crops up in the film is the commission of a painting. Her reaction to this is a genuine image of what her life is, as is the misconception she harbors that she isn’t loved – or can be. The quiet in the scene is its power.
As any costume drama worth its salt boasts, the costume and its details is beautiful. Belle gives the viewer some gorgeous finery to drool over. The dresses, the gentleman’s attire, the colors; everything is spot on elegant, which compliments to the era. Also talented is the cast who each add something good to the roles. The two young stars in particular impress. Both women have an emotional role to fill and each one plays it with strength and vulnerability for their character arcs. Packing the best emotional punch is the knowledge that this is based off a true story. Even with the license of drama to adapt the story, Belle is worth seeing and is easily one of my new favorites.
[sc name=”Disclosure Notice”] You can rent or own Belle on Amazon Video.Elegant and based in historical fact, this 2014 #PeriodDrama is a favorite. Belle - An Elegant Story About a Historical Figure Click To Tweet
CONTENT: There is some thematic elements, and implication of a possible rape (nothing happens). The film is PG13.