Summary: An illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle.
Australian Cinema Release Date: 8th May, 2014
Australian DVD Release Date: TBA
Director: Amma Asante
Screenwriter: Misan Sagay
Cast: Susan Brown (Baroness Vernon), Tony Eccles (Mr. Francis), Tom Felton (James Ashford), Sarah Gadon (Elizabeth Murray), Matthew Goode (Captain Sir John Lindsay), David Grant (Zoffany), Cara Jenkins (Young Elizabeth), Alex Jennings (Lord Ashford), Lauren Julien-Box (Young Dido), Bethan Mary-James (Mabel), Alfred Mather (Mr. Francis), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Dido Elizabeth Belle), Alan McKenna (Harry), James Northcote ((Mr. Vaughn), James Norton (Oliver Ashford), Sam Reid (John Davinier), Miranda Richardson (Lady Ashford), Timothy Walker (Wimbrdige), Emily Watson (Lady Mansfield), Rupert Wickham (Reverend Davinier), Tom Wilkinson (Lord Mansfield), Penelope Wilton (Lady Mary Murray)
Runtime: 104 mins
OUR BELLE REVIEWS & RATINGS:
Greg King: You can check out Greg’s Belle review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #78
Nick Gardener: You can check out Nick’s Belle review on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #78
Sometimes timing is everything when it comes to a film’s release. Twelve months ago people would have been saying that Belle was a much needed film looking at equal rights for all people, no matter their skin colour. But in a stroke of bad luck for Belle it comes out only a few months after the critically acclaimed 12 Years A Slave, a film that went further into the subject matter than any film before it.
Still Belle does deserve some credit, it tells the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Odd Thomas, TV’S Touch) a young girl who was parented by a black slave mother and her father, Navy Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode – Stoker, The Vatican). When her mother dies, her father who loves her dearly decides that it would be best for her if she was looked after by his wealthy Aunt, Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson – The Book Thief, Some Girl(s)) and Uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson – The Grand Budapest Hotel, Felony).
The plan doesn’t go completely to plan though. While Dido is loved by her adopted guardians and Lady Mary Murray (Penelope Wilton – The Girl, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) they find that no matter how hard they try society just won’t accept her the way that it accepts their own daughter, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon – Maps To The Stars, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). The divide becomes even more apparent when the two women enter the ‘dating circle.’ While the well-off James Ashford (Tom Felton – In Secret, From The Rough) pursues Elizabeth his brother Oliver (James Norton – Mr. Turner, Rush) goes against his wishes and tries to become a suitor for Belle. Their mother, Lady Ashford (Miranda Richardson – Muppets Most Wanted, TV’S World Without End) does not fully like the fact that her son may marry a ‘mixed race’ woman but certainly sees financial benefit from it.
Just to further cause problems for Dido she becomes ‘interested’ in John Davinier (Sam Reid – ’71, The Railway Man), an ambitious young law student who continuously butts heads with Lord Mansfield.
Belle is the kind of film that will slightly frustrate its audience. The story behind the film is a fascinating one and not one that most people would be familiar with and while director Amma Asante (A Way Of Life) does a good job bringing the story to the big screen there just seems to be something that stops this film from becoming a brilliant cinematic experience.
While Asante and those involved for set design and costume capture the time period that Belle is set in have made the film look as good as a classic like Pride & Prejudice the screenplay, which comes from the pen of Misan Sigay (Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Secret Laughter of Woman), sadly lets the film down a little. The script makes the film feel more like an episode of Downton Abbey rather than something people would want to pay $20 to see at the cinema.
There are a number of scenes in the film that needed to be more dramatic than they actually are. The confrontation between Dido and James Ashford needed to be a lot more suspenseful and threatening while a lot of the ‘dating circle’ scenes that feature Lady Mansfield and Lady Ashford almost seem like they were written for a soap opera rather than a big screen film. Even the scenes revolving around the whole court case never reach the dramatic peaks that they should have. Perhaps as a screenwriter Sigay should have taken another look at Lincoln to see how a good screenwriter can make scenes like that so suspenseful.
The acting in Belle is also let down by the screenplay. The talented skills of Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Miranda Richardson are hardly even tested as they never seem to get out of cruise control throughout the film. The younger cast fair a little though. Sarah Gadon, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid all show that they have promising careers ahead of them while it is also good to see Tom Felton being able to show his talents outside of the Harry Potter franchise.
Belle is far a disappointment but discerning film goers are likely to want a little more out of their film. Still it is good to see such an important story making it onto the big screen.
Other Subculture Media Reviews of ‘Belle′: Please check our full Belle review that aired on The Good The Bad The Ugly Film Show Ep #78