In this day and age, if you’re young, beautiful, smart, and wealthy, you are the whole package! Parents want to show you off, and boys are lining up to be with you. But, in late 18th-century England all that money and poise meant nothing if your skin wasn’t the right color.
If you know the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, well then you already know how this film will end. And even if you don’t know the tale, you can make a pretty good assumption of what will happen. Luckily the strong cast, led by the incredibly talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne), gives enough of a spell-binding performance to make us completely enthralled in this story.
After 12 Years A Slave, you may not want to endure another oppression piece. Don’t worry; Belle is a much lighter true story with no images of physical abuse or even derogatory language. This is actually a film the whole family can see.
Belle is a romantic drama about Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of Royal Navy officer Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) and an African slave, who was brought to England by her father after he discovered he had a child with his former lover who was of African descent. He then left Dido in the care of her great-uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), the Lord Chief Justice (the highest chief justice in the land) and his wife (Emily Watson) while Lindsay returned to his Royal Navy service.
At first the two are taken aback by the idea of raising Dido, especially since they are already caring for her cousin, Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Godson). It isn’t long before the couple fall in love with Dido and treat her as if she were their own daughter. The only difference is she is excluded from certain events that Elizabeth is allowed to attend, and she can not to eat dinner with the family when guests are in attendance. So yeah…basically she’s living the dream life. The funny thing is; Dido’s father has left her his entire inheritance so she is rich! She doesn’t need a man to take care of her, unlike her cousin who desperately is seeking a wealthy husband. Elizabeth’s father has left her nothing; therefore she is “penniless,” which apparently was a major turn off to guys back then. It’s not exactly something Elizabeth wants to publicize to her top choice suitor (Tom Felton) either.
Dido, on the other hand, has different conflicts to deal with once a romantic relationship develops between her and an outspoken young lawyer, John Davinier (Sam Reid). A union that Lord Mansfield strongly disapproves of because he feels Dido is of higher class, even though Davinier is his legal apprentice. Their romance is sweet and best of all, it isn’t rushed. It is easy to root for this couple from the moment they first meet.
I don’t think they could have picked a more perfect cast. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is phenomenal, and I am certain we will be seeing plenty more of her beauty gracing the silver screen. I do hope that Tom Felton will eventually clean up and be given a character that isn’t absolutely despised or disgusting. A leading man role is just not looking very promising for him.
For a period piece, Belle moves fast. There is no pointless dialogue or dragged out scenes. It is an uplifting film that connects you with its tender love story and prevailing message of strength, courage, and proudly accepting who you are and what you believe.
Belle hits theaters in limited release May 9.
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