REVIEW: ‘Belle’

Amma Asante
Matthew Goode
Sara Gadon
Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Tom Wilkinson
Rated: PG

The true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle is on display in the film “Belle.” The movie follows how the daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised in 18th Century England.

Played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle’s story becomes more complex as she begins experiencing romance and also gets caught up in a case that her aristocratic great-uncle is working on.

“Belle” works well enough as a period piece to hold some interest and sheds light on a fascinating story. It also makes its political points very clearly. What it doesn’t do, though, is make for the most engaging experience.

Anyone expecting a more epic or endearing story the likes of “12 Years a Slave” may be disappointed as the plot in “Belle” ended up on the dull side at times.

The main issue is that a little too much time was spent on Belle’s relationship with the love interest, played by Sam Reid. The relationship was lacking in terms of heart and energy, which was a problem since the relationship is a major component to the climax of the film.

Gugu MBatha-Raw, who played Belle, gave a good performance, but not one for the ages. She provided plenty of grace and there was an honesty with her character, however, it wasn’t the most endearing ever.

The love interest, John Davinier played by Sam Reid, was very lackluster. Reid didn’t seem to have any sort of real screen presence or charm to add to his character.

Veteran actor Tom Wilkinson, who plays Belle’s great-uncle, is the best part of the movie and fully embraces the role he plays. Without a doubt, every time he appears he steals the show.

Technically, “Belle” works in areas such as cinematography, however the costume design and set pieces all seemed rather standard in comparisons to other period films.

“Belle” has some good performances, but it’s not a film that will engage audiences across the board. A tighter script could have helped the film more. I’d recommend seeing it only if you’re interested in the subject matter. Low 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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