Film Review: Belle

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Synopsis: Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the colour of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing.

Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.


Film: Belle

Director: Misa Sagay

Date: 2013

I didn’t intend to review Belle. In fact, I wasn’t that bothered about watching it when given the chance. But I had nothing else to do, so popped it on. I thought it was a love-story with no more depth than that, and was prepared to be bored.

This film moved me to tears. There were so many levels to it, so many serious topics addressed, and the fact that goodness and humanity won out in the end actually made me cry. I loved it in so many ways!

Until the film started, I had no idea it was based on a true story. I love that it is: that this happy ending was genuinely the happy ending the real Dido achieved. That the people who loved her unconditionally were prepared to fight the law in order to do what they knew was right, even if it wasn’t the done thing. Even writing this is bringing back all the feelings the film left me with. A very powerful story!

On the surface, the film is a love-story: it’s an heiress attempt to find a husband, one who loves and respects her for who she truly is. It has all the squabbles and tears that would match it neatly with Pride and Prejudice or films of that ilk.

But the main story is about the slave-trade and whether society should deem it to be acceptable to put a price on another human being.

My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame.

Dido’s great-uncle is one of the highest in the land for justice and he refuses to be swayed by any pressure, whether in his household or without. Although his character is kindly and he has been a good father to Dido and her cousin, Elizabeth, his need to uphold the law appeared to sway his judgement. I liked his character but feared what he would do. The fact he followed his heart rather than what society expected was such a pivotal moment in the film, especially when you consider the repercussions this would have had for society.

Dido was an exceptional young lady. With a good education to support her, she made sure that she kept up-to-date with events, especially when they concerned the fate of slaves. She was more than a match for any of her male counterparts and was prepared to argue, fight and go against society in order to ensure justice was served. The fact she found true love along the way just makes it more perfect!

Without knowing the true story, I cannot judge whether the film remained true to the events. The acting was realistic though, and I felt the characters were presented well, even the villainous James Ashford, who I did not realise was Tom Felton until writing this review. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is beautiful and talented and I would love to see her in the main role in more films.

This film touched me on so many levels. I guess I wanted to review it because it shows goodness truly can win!

Amazon | HMV


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