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Lead actress was very pretty and pouty but her 'acting' was outshone by the rest of the cast. Definitely not a nuanced performance.
The film plot is is pure fiction. While Dido did exist would have made a great film subject, this account is pure tosh.
It is a very pretty and engaging historical romance in lovely setting with a great complex performance by Tom Wilkinson. which raises the film's anti slavery sub plot and predictable script to another level.
Just don't go in expecting actual history and lower your expectations of the acting chops of the female lead Gugu Mbatha-Raw, which are mightily overblown in most reviews, and you will enjoy it.
Love this movie!!! Fabulous combination of civil rights, justice and a love story. I highly recommend it to all.
- Belle's true story is bold in a perilous time -
Belle's story could not be told in a more difficult or perilous era.
England's empire is at its height in the 18th century. Its grandeur is largely bloodstained as the slave trade flourishes under its domain. Belle (later known as Dido, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Free State of Jones) is the daughter of one such slave, but with one notable difference--her father is a captain in the king's navy. As the film opens, Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode, The Imitation Game) enters the slums to find his daughter and bring her to the home of his uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson, Selma). It's a rare bid to ensure her safekeeping, education, and the upbringing that she is entitled to as one of his bloodline.
Now, I really have to commend the writers here for their mad juggling skills. It's a complicated social situation in many aspects, and so far removed from our contemporary experience of life. But as Dido comes of age, we see that she faces two dangers: her difficult status as a woman of color in aristocratic society, and her position as a woman in general. Since women were considered property, it seems as if Dido escaped one form of ownership only to be sent to another.
There's one scene of Dido staring at her reflection in the mirror for several moments before she begins to beat and claw at the beautiful, dark skin that signals to society that the rules must be different for her. I cried, people.
Director Amma Asante, in an interview with Dame Magazine, explains:
"As a black woman, I wanted to tell a very Jane Austen-esque story. I'm a lover of Jane Austen, I came to her late in life, but in some ways I'm glad that I did because it meant that I came to her with a better understanding of what she does, and how she used wit and her storytelling to really present quite a feminist stance. But, you know, how could I, as a woman of color, tell this story of genteel English life and not acknowledge the fact that what was holding up the economy of that life, of that world, of that culture, came off of the back of the slave trade? So I think that's the lens that a black female comes to it with-you have that responsibility, you have to tell both stories."
And she does-remarkably so. Dido's search for belonging and her desire to carve out a place in the world that she can be bold with and proud of is something that we all can relate to. Racial tensions are still inexplicably present, and everyone seems to be struggling to find something to identify as, some tribe to join. But Dido simply wanted to be.
On another note, I really must gush about the costumes. The inspiration for this film came from a portrait of Dido with her cousin, and this inspiration is evident in the stunning way that the entire film resembles a painting. It isn't just the cinematography (which is brilliant, by the way), it's the intricacies of each gown, the way their colors perfectly complement the wearers and coordinate with the other costumes and environment of the scenes. I know that I wouldn't want to wear those gowns every day, but it's easy to forget when I hear the way they swish in the background.
But I digress.
Belle is a film that, for all its complexity, manages to span the distance of several centuries and still truthfully display the human experience. Dido's story was as remarkable and inspiring then as it is now. It makes me wonder, if Dido didn't live in the box society placed her in, why should we?
This review was first published on Narrative Muse, http://www.narrativemuse.co/movies/belle, and was written Micah Orsetti. Narrative Muse curates the best books and movies by and about women and non-binary folk on our website http://narrativemuse.co and our social media channels.
Beautiful and inspiring movie about a case that defined the end of the slave trade in England in the late 18th century. Incredible acting, especially from the gorgeous Gugu Mbatha-Raw and the legendary Tom Wilkinson.
Drama/ romance. Covers an important historical legal decision in late 1700's England, as well as its main theme of a bi-racial niece being brought up in a privileged household. Based on a true story. Dialogue is smartly scripted and acting is well performed. Story itself is engaging, although often interspersed with tedium - likely reflecting the reality of that era!
Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives a strong performance as does Tom Wilkinson in this true story about Dido Elizabeth Belle. It's a moving and beautiful looking period picture that takes on the issues of color and class in England at the time as well as the harsh realities of the slave trade. I really like this movie
A very inspiring, heart-soaring film based upon the 18th century and slavery. A beautiful performance that I now own. A must-see!
Belle is a PHENOMENAL achievement. Amma Assante's direction of a tightly wrapped script and an outstanding cast . . . led by the stunningly beautiful and talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw . . . should be considered a classic for every reason. Photography and editing are also second to none.
One of the greatest history based films . . .Belle accurately dramatizes a cornerstone in the legal destruction of the indefensible and abhorrent abomination that was (and . . . sadly still is in some parts of the world) slavery.
Belle is an absolute must see . . . for anyone and everyone.
Imagine a Jane Austen adaption movie: stunning costumes, dramatic orchestration, romantic longing, but which at the same time doesn't shy away from transcending this well-tested formula- a film in which love has to overcome much bigger obstacles than mere class distinctions. That is what Belle (2014) is in "a nutshell". The beautifully crafted period piece, written by Misan Sagay and directed by Amma Asante which is loosely based on a real story, is the tale of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the daughter of an enslaved African woman and an English admiral. Upon her father's pleas, she is raised by her paternal white, aristocratic great- uncle and aunt, lady and lord Mansfield (Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson) together with her cousin Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon). As Dido grows up, she continually struggles with the strict class and race conventions of the 18th century.
Dido's youth is marked by mixed blessings: on one hand, she is cared about and loved dearly, on the other hand she is frequently reminded of her lower social rank. This changes when she unexpectedly inherits a large sum of money from her deceased father, which puts her in a much higher social position and secures her financial stability.
What makes the movie so remarkable is without doubt the skilful combination and addressing of two most pressing matters: gender and race. As a person of colour and a woman, Dido experiences oppression in almost every aspect of her life. Although she is raised by her uncle and aunt with love and care, she is not allowed to dine with her family when there are visitors. Somehow, she is "too high in rank to dine with the servants, and too low to dine with [her] family" (0:12:30). However, Dido is everything but submissive and passive. She has a sharp tongue and a keen mind, and frequently questions the order of things with bold courage.
This struggle to overcome oppression and objectification is beautifully conveyed by Mbatha-Raw ("Dido"), who is clearly the film's gem (judging also by the several awards and nominations she has received for the role). Another brilliant piece of acting was delivered by Tom Wilkinson ("Lord Mansfield), who perfectly depicts the internal conflicts he is fighting about what is right and what is wrong. However good Mbhatha- Raw and Wilkinson's acting was, there were some minor aspects that still bothered me slightly. Tom Felton, who is cast as the more than unsympathetic suitor of her cousin Elizabeth, delivers a convincing but unsurprising portrayal of another Draco Malfoy type, while Sam Reid ("John Davinier") seems to be either brooding or angry whenever he appears on screen. These, however, are minor is
The superb cinematography definitely plays another key role in making the film authentic. Golden hues are the predominant colours in the film, and give the impression of nobility, while the reappearing musical themes help to create coherence and suspense. The editing, although very conventional and even conservative and stiff at times, helps to support the general mood of the strictly structured 18th century society.
The intelligently written film does mostly succeed at connecting the loose threads of the many plotlines, and the viewer is catapulted back in time thanks to the incredibly convincing costumes and settings, and Bhata-Raw give's the heroine such complexity and fierceness, that it is hard not to be moved by her experiences (both positive and negative) and how she grows as a person. There is an unmistakable spark to the character which truly makes the movie a delight to watch and perhaps, an instant classic.
A black girl in a fancy dress in the foreground and a nicely furnished room in the background as well as the title and the small line beneath saying "based on the inspiring true story" was what caught my eye on the poster advertising Amma Asante's film "Belle" (2013) featuring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson and Matthew Goode among many others.
This biographical motion picture shows Dido Elizabeth Belle trying to find her place in 18th century England as a person of colour as well as fighting for the man she loves and her people. Gugu Mbatha-Raw's performance is outstanding, the costumes, the scenery and the music are nicely done and chosen, as they suggest accuracy and the story presented is extraordinary. However, as already mentioned the movie was marketed as a true story, which although Dido Elizabeth Belle is a historical person I can not agree with.
In general there are very few facts known about Dido and her life, but even most of those were not included in the film and everything that makes it as interesting as it is is not accurate. There is no evidence for Dido's participation in the Zong ship trial, nor any proof at all that she even had the slightest influence on her uncle. In addition, her cousin Elizabeth married many years before Dido eventually became Mr. Davinier's wife and it was also Elizabeth, who was the rich one and not Dido. Therefore, the story presented in the movie might surround a historical subject, but it is definitely not based on a true events. Although, I am convinced that a film that would be closer to what really happened would be just as interesting if not even more.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that watching the film can be a pleasant experience, since its story is fascinating and the performances are well-done. However, only if the viewer does not expect this biopic to actually be a representation of the real Dido Elizabeth Belle and her life or a certain interpretation of what really happened, as it is neither. Overall I strongly believe that this film would have been better of as that, just a film, since this way it would be good, but as a biopic it completely failed.
Adams, Gene. Dido Elizabeth Belle a Black Girl at Kenwood". Camden History Review 12.24. 25 Nov. 2016.
Belle. Dir. Amma Asante. Perf. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2013.
Byrne, Paula. Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice. New York: Collins, 2014.