Film Review: Belle

BELLE (2014)
starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Sam Reid, Sarah Gadon, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, and 

Watch Belle trailer
BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral (Matthew Goode).  Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color 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 18th century. Directed by Amma Asante (A WAY OF LIFE) and written by Misan Sagay (THE SECRET LAUGHTER OF WOMEN).
I recently saw Belle movie, not once, but twice! I loved and enjoyed watching it both times. I've been waiting to see this film since I've heard of it last year. When I heard it'll be in select cities/theaters around the country, I was a bit disappointed because it reminded me of other great period movies (I loved and enjoyed watching) like this one that took forever (and sometimes they don't make it here especially if they are independent films) to get to my local theater such as The Young Victoria, The Duchess, and Becoming Jane, to name a few. Thankfully, this movie had been getting mostly rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. I've been hearing some great things too about this movie since it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. So, I was most definitely looking forward to seeing it. After opening strong in select theaters and expanding to more screens, then reaching/passing the $1 million mark at the Box office, it was finally showing nationwide this past Memorial weekend. I was so glad to see this listed in my local theater's website (I've been checking it constantly, lol) and finally got to see it and a couple times too!

Belle was even more amazing than I expected. I love that it was based on a true story and was so moving and inspiring with intelligence and humor to keep you watching. Also, it reminded me a bit of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, in terms of the story and society the characters lived in and how already judgmental and prejudice people were back in that era. The main characters Dido Elizabeth Belle and Mr. John Davinier were also like Elizabeth Bennet & Mr. Darcy, but opposite in terms of rank and position. Dido Belle was more like Mr. Darcy, as she's wealthy and an heiress, whereas Mr. Davinier was more like Elizabeth Bennet, a poor vicar's son, but he was strong, opinionated, and intelligent man. Like Lizzie & Darcy, Dido & Davinier didn't get along well at the beginning, but ended up falling in love in the end (and of course, in real-life they got married and had 2 sons). They were real people though, unlike the famous literary fictional couple, Darcy & Elizabeth.

Great casting with the amazing ensemble cast: newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw was superb as Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (or as she was mostly called as Dido or Miss Lindsay), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode, who was great in smaller, but still memorable role).  Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson, who was great in this movie) and his wife (Emily Watson), Dido’s family lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Gugu Mbatha-Raw did a great job playing her title role. She was believable and just a delight to watch in this movie. Sam Reid, who played Mr. John Davinier did equally great in his part. He looked very handsome in this movie too. He reminded of Darcy a bit, in the handsome and swoon-worthy department, lol. He and Mbatha-Raw had a great on-screen chemistry and were just beautiful together. I rooted for them (and was already shipping them) as a pair, the moment their characters meet on-screen. Penelope Wilton was kinda mean and funny at the same time in this movie as Lady Mary Murray aka aunt Mary (to cousins Dido and Elizabeth). Sarah Gadon did a wonderful job as Dido's cousin, Elizabeth MurrayMiranda Richardson, was great as usual, as the mean mother, Lady Ashford of the two Ashford brothers (Tom Felton and James Norton), suitors to cousins Dido and Elizabeth. The rest of the cast were very good too.

The story and screenplay were very well-written, great direction by BAFTA award winner Amma Assante, gorgeous costumes and production sets and designs, beautiful score and music, and a stunning cinematography.

[Warning! ... for those who haven't seen this movie and don't want to be spoiled...]

Favorite Scenes:
- When Captain Lindsay introduced his daughter, young Dido Belle to his family and told them he wasn't ashamed of her and that he loved her (even though they'd only met a few hours prior) and doesn't mind if she uses his last name.
- When Captain Lindsay told his daughter, Dido he loves her in that same scene...that was very touching.
- When Lady Mary Murray was telling her young nieces Dido and Elizabeth about something annoying...young Elizabeth told her aunt, how she heard that she was an old spinster...and her reaction was was hilarious.
- When Lady Mary Murray advised her niece Elizabeth to "wait for no man," that was so random and funny.
- When the maid thought Dido how to comb her hair...very nice moment, loved Dido's smile in that lil' scene
- All of Dido Belle & John Davinier's scenes. They were so cute and great together.
- When cousins Dido and Elizabeth had an argument about the Ashford brothers and Elizabeth was calling Dido a "liar," "you're beneath him!" and "you are illegitimate!" I loved what Dido said to her in return...that she may have been "illegitimate," but at least her parents loved her (especially her father, whom she had known only briefly and was not ashamed of her taking his last name) whereas Elizabeth's own father abandoned her and left her penniless. The cousins made up and hugged after that though 'cause they loved each other and after all, they're still family. Great scene!
- When Dido responded to Lady Ashford that she has a tongue! Loved this scene and how she confronted her and told her that "my greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame." Very well said! Great line!

Favorite Quotes:
- "Papa, how can I be too high of rank to dine with the servants, but too low of rank to dine with my own family?" (Dido Elizabeth Belle)
- "I have a tongue!" (Dido Elizabeth Belle)
- "I have been blessed with freedom twice over, as a negro and as a woman." (Dido Elizabeth Belle)
- "What is right can never be impossible." (Captain Sir John Lindsay) 
- "What should she be named?" (Lady Mansfield)
  "Dido Belle Lindsay." (Captain Sir John Lindsay)
  "She takes your name?" (Lord Mansfield)
  "I am not ashamed." (Captain Sir John Lindsay)
  "We will call her Dido." (Lady Mansfield)
- "I remember my father's eyes. They were kind, gentle, a little like yours." (Dido Elizabeth Belle)
"Mine?" (John Davinier)
"I mean in colour." (Dido Elizabeth Belle)
- "My greatest misfortune would be to marry into a family who would carry me as their shame." (Dido Elizabeth Belle)
- "Yes, I love her! I love her with every breath I breathe." (John Davinier)
- "Elizabeth, a word of advice, wait for no man, my dear." (Lady Mary Murray)
- "You are above reducing yourself for the sake of rank." (John Davinier)
- "I just learned yesterday that Mr. Davinier was in town." (Lady Mansfield)
"I'm not surprised, Dido is beginning to sound a lot like him." (Lord Mansfield)
- "Do you love her?" (Lady Mansfield)
  "As though she were created of you and me." (Lord Mansfield)
- "You would risk your position for a man without name?" (Lord Mansfield)
 "You break every rule when it matters enough, Papa. I am the evidence." (Dodo Elizabeth Belle)

Overall, Belle was a great period film! Definitely, a must-see! It was worth the wait (for me) and worth-watching too. I loved and enjoyed watching it from beginning to end. I laughed and cried in both times I've seen it. It was such a beautiful, triumphant, brave, witty, funny, moving, and inspiring film with an excellent cast, great performances, great story, wonderful direction, and visually stunning cinematography. I highly recommend you see this movie, if you haven't already! Go see Belle!

My Belle film rating: (10/10; A+)


Thomas Watson said…
Having finally had a chance to see Belle (and totally worth every penny and more), I think the scene that made me the most weepy was with Mabel teaching Belle how to deal with her hair.

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