Belle is a beautifully shot costume-drama based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy admiral. Set in 18th century England, Belle is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson). Though she is brought up with love and given all the luxuries of a lady of her status, her life has restrictions due to the color of her skin. When the Mansfields have guests over to dine, Belle’s status is too low to dine with them, but too high to dine with the servants. She is only allowed to be seen after dinner, in the context of the “less formal” social hour.
Belle’s cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) is a proper English rose and the two consider each other sisters. However their bond does not render them equal when the two girls come of age. Elizabeth is presented to suitors while Belle is told to spend the rest of her days looking after the Mansfield estate. Belle’s luck changes when she meets John Davinier (Sam Reid).
Mr. Davinier is a passionate abolitionist fighting a case Belle’s uncle is judging; a lawsuit against the Zong slave ship. The lawsuit claims the crew killed 142 slaves due to low water supply and that the insurers owe the slave owners money for their dead cargo. Mr. Davinier is not only against the lawsuit, but also against the idea of slavery as a whole. As Belle finds herself falling for him, the two work together to convince her uncle of slavery’s injustice.
Belle is a compelling story, but the film was emotionally empty. Although there were some tear jerking moments, it felt rather light and Disney-esque. Audiences never needed to worry about Belle, her safety, or that everything would not be resolved in the last five minutes. Belle is not a bad movie, but it should have delved emotionally deeper into its characters. It is a hopeful film, with a feel good-ending and brings to life an interesting piece of history.
Verdict : Good
Belle is a movie with a compelling story that emotionally just falls flat.
Positives : Beautiful cinematography, tear jerking moments.
Negatives : Emotionally empty