Odeon cinemas made Belle the movie of the month. And rightly so!
Not only is Belle an(other) compelling stand against our slave trading past, but its cast is simply brilliant.
When Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode, with way too little screen time) finds out he has a daughter from a liaison with a black woman he rescued on a ship, he decides that since her mother has recently died, she should go and live with his family, as this is her rightful place. Yet unable to stay, he leaves little Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) with his uncle at their estate, raising more questions than Lord (Tom Wilkinson) and Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson) would like.
Raised as her cousin Elizabeth Murray’s (Sarah Gadon) companion, Dido finds it impossible to know her place in society. Too high in rank to eat with the servants, but still too low in order to attend her family’s former dinner parties, Dido must slowly learn that to know where she belongs, she must find her own way.
When the girls are introduced into society, things take a turn for the… interesting. Oliver (James Norton) and James (Tom Felton) Ashford are both eligible young men, but while James is utterly repulsed by Dido, Oliver is fascinated by her exotic looks and goes against his mother’s (Miranda Richardson) wishes in order to pursue her.
The movie also follows the famous case of the slave ship Zong that Lord Mansfield has to rule over. Fighting him at every turn is young John Davinier (Sam Reid), a minister’s son who wants to change Britain’s laws for the better and who develops a meaningful friendship with Dido as they discuss their political beliefs.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is outstanding in the role of Dido, fascinating you with her elegance and her mysterious smile. Sarah Gadon plays the slightly foolish debutante as well as can be, and Tom Felton reprises his Draco Malefoy-esque scowls and disgusted expressions as James Ashford. Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson are an amazing power couple, and Sam Reid has officially become one of my new celebrity crushes with his kind eyes and deep voice.
In a year that has seen Twelve Years A Slave, Mandela and (in some countries still) The Butler, Belle fits right in. At times it also reminded me of Amazing Grace, the 2006 movie about William Wilberforce and his unrelenting fight to end Britain’s slave trade.
I definitely recommend that you go see this movie if you’ve already seen one of the aforementioned, and even if you didn’t. If you’re not too keen on the historical and political background of this retelling of a real story, then think of it as a Jane Austen-esque romance with gorgeous dresses, annoying parents and hot bachelors.
Pictures from: showfilmfirst.com, justjaredjr.com, moviefloss.com, bbcimg.co.uk, cineworld.co.uk, ytimg.com, rogerebert.com