This weekend my husband and I went to see the movie “Belle”. Although I do want to see latest “X-Men” film it has been a long time since I braved the crowds to see a summer blockbuster on opening weekend. Instead we decided to see this small but excellent historical film.
If you aren’t familiar with the story “Belle” is about a woman who was born to an English White father a Black woman in the 1700s. There isn’t much background information given on her mother. Signs point to that she was from English North America and was free. When the mother dies Belle, who goes by Dido, is left in England by her father to be raised by her great aunt and uncle.
Most of the movie plays out once Dido is an adult. GuguMbatha-Raw is excellent as Dido. She brings a great combination of courage, toughness and vulnerability to the role. This is the kind of performance that could generation Oscar buzz if it was released later in the year. As Dido navigates English society she must constantly struggle with the balance of what is her right by birth because of her father and what she must be denied because of the skin of her mother.
To complicate matter her uncle (Tom Wilkinson) is a high judge and is in the middle of deciding a very important case which will decide the fate of the slavery trade in the British Isles. What will he decide? Wilkinson is an excellent actor and he does a fine job, as do two other two time Oscar nominees Miranda Richardson and Emily Watson, not to mention Harry Potter alum Tom Felton.
As great as those actors are the film one hundred percent belongs to Mbatha-Raw.
It is truly heartbreaking at times to see this beautiful, smart and strong woman denied the ability to eat dinner with her family. It is also intriguing to see how events unfold when it comes time to possibly get married. Her money has the potential to allow the right man to marry her for her family name but is that what she wants? Does Dido want a man who will marry her for her money and “forgive” her for the color of her skin? Is there a possibility that she could find somebody that could love her who she truly is as a person?
What is great about this movie is that it asks these questions. What is sad is that we are in the year 2014 and society is still struggling with issues of wealth and race. It seems certain things haven’t changed since the 1700s.
If you like historical films, any of the actors involved, or if you just need a break from the loud explosions of Hollywood summer blockbusters I strongly recommend that you check out “Belle” while it is in theatres. It is also worth noting that this movie is a based on a true story which makes it even more interesting and powerful.
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