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Belle - Film Review

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by Katie Fisher (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living and working in Newcastle.
Published March 12th 2014
I give this film 4 out of 5 stars
Amma Asante's "Belle" is an powerful romantic-drama, based on a true story and set in a time when slavery still exists. The film successfully portrays the introduction of modern moral ideals into a barbaric 18th century England. In a world where dowries and inheritance dictate class and social status, there is one young lady who does not quite fit in anywhere. Dido Belle is the illegitimate mixed-race child of an admiral and a slave. After her mother dies she is raised as an aristocrat under her wealthy Uncle's care. Her life in limbo is exemplified in the line: "How may I be too high in rank to dine with the servants but too low to dine with my own family?"

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays the leading lady Dido Belle, captures our hearts and compassion as we follow her journey to achieve equality in a world still too primitive to allow it. Mbatha-Raw performs brilliantly by simultaneously portraying a spoilt aristocratic heiress and a victim of racism and injustice. Her life is monopolised by the search for a suitor of high status but complicated by the colour of her skin.

Not only does "Belle" confront us with the bigoted racial views of our past but it also tip-toes onto the issues of gender inequality and the idea of women as 'possessions' of men. This theme transcends time with the question of gender equality still unanswered and the stigma of an unmarried woman quite comparable to that of 1779.

"Belle" is a film that causes us to question our morality and illustrates just how far society has advanced...and yet how far we have to go. As always, Tom Felton plays the 'bad guy' we all love to hate. He is James Ashford, the heir to a great fortune and a suitor to Dido's half-cousin Elizabeth. He is the physical manifestation of 17th century Britain's racism and misogyny; cruel and cold-hearted. On the whole, Felton was fairly unimpressive in this role. He did not successfully command our sympathy for his moral blindness as was intended by Asante.

On the whole, Asante's "Belle" is a moving, heart-warming film that sends viewers back in time to the turning point in slavery's history. It has been described as the British version of "12 Years A Slave" and certainly packs a similar moral punch. Full to the brim with emotion and moral dilemmas, it connects with the audience and is incredibly moving. Taking a box of tissues is advised.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

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Why? An empowering, moving and heart-warming film
When: In cinemas May 8
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