Belle (2013)

Belle (2013)

A stirring, though fictionalized, period drama intertwining race and romance

7.2

Movie

United Kingdom
English
Drama
2013
AMMA ASANTE, FEMALE DIRECTOR
Alan McKenna, Alex Jennings, Andrew Woodall
105 min

TLDR

Sam Reid was decent here– he does quite well with Davinier– But I cannot help but imagine what it would have been like if first choice Sam Claflin didn’t have scheduling conflicts with Catching Fire…

What it's about

England, 18th century. Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, an illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of a slave, is adopted by her father, Royal Navy captain Sir John Lindsay, the unusual choice leading to her becoming an important figure in the abolition of slavery in the kingdom.

The take

When it comes to British period dramas, aristocrats are rarely portrayed as Black until relatively recently, with colorblind casting tending to focus more on acting talent rather than how race would affect and shape a character. That being said, while rarely acknowledged, Black descendants of British aristocracy actually did exist, and one of whom has been depicted in Belle. With the excellent Gugu Mbatha-Raw making her film breakthrough here, Belle reckons with the difficult questions of race and sex in 18th century Britain, contemplating the real woman’s options in a world determined entirely by blood and inheritance, a discussion brushed aside in other period dramas, but one that should be examined. While director Amma Asante does take plenty of liberties in the actual facts, she also excellently balances both the fictional romance and the historical realities Dido Elizabeth Belle had faced, making both parts as compelling and as essential as each other.

What stands out

Gugu Mbatha-Raw. From this moment on, it was obvious that she is a star.

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