Time: 1 hour and 44 minutes
UK ~ June 2014
USA ~ May 2014
Director: Amma Ansante
Writers: Misan Sagay
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, Sam Reid, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Tom Felton and James Norton
The mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle in 18th century England.
Available~DVD: Amazon | BN and Amazon Video | NOOK Video
There is something about the term “know your history”...right? And most of us don’t use or relate too it unless we actively care to know or actively look. The movie Belle is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, illegitimate daughter of Captain John Lindsay and slave Maria Belle. Belle or Dido as she was called in the movie was raised by her Uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield and his wife. She was brought up as a lady along with her cousin Elizabeth Murray.
I’ve been wanting to catch Belle for the longest time since it’s release in 2014. It had very limited releases in the states and I waited patiently for it to be released on Netflix, I looked constantly although not recently. So imagine when I came across a post by my fellow blogger buddy Braine over at TalkSupe where she caught the movie on HBO and had did a mini review. Well, to say the least, I quickly searched, found and DVR’d it. With the most ridiculous weather we have ever experienced going on, I finally was able to sit my butt down and watch it this past Friday. Let me just say that it was well worth the wait.
The story of Dido is fascinating...to imagine this young black woman being raised as a lady in Jane Austen era England totally intrigued me. I couldn't wrap my head around it, so I”m happy to see that her story was made into a feature film.
Belle revolved around Dido's relationship with her family, her social status during this time and her relationship with the man whom I found out was her husband in real life, John Davinier. As much as I read interracial romances, there was another reason I wanted to see Belle. I wanted to see a mainstream movie where there is a relationship with a woman of color that something sweet and loving, not negative. I think director, Amma Asante did a wonderful job of making this happen. Especially given the time period of Dido’s life.
In the movies depiction of her time with her family. You got the feeling that Dido was the much beloved niece of Mansfield but you still saw the stigma of the bigotry that she faced, it broke my heart to see her struggle with things. Like how she couldn't eat dinner with the family when guest were present BUT she was allowed to have tea with the ladies after. “Proper” English men lusting after her but hating her for her skin color. How her family knew that she would never find a suitable marriage because she was a mulatto.
You got the feeling that her character was made to be just a little gullible when it came to certain things, like the part where she was confused as to why she couldn't attend some social outings to find a husband during the season along with her cousin Elizabeth. I myself would like to believe that in real life Dido was not this naive...that she knew exactly how the color of her skin affected her social status during this time.
The movie also covers a crucial time in England when her Uncle had to rule on a decision about a case that dealt with slavery in the country at the time. I liked the fact that they made it appear that Dido’s relationship with her Uncle affected his decision on this now famous case. I read somewhere that the decision pretty much abolished slavery in England. I also adored the way the movie covered her relationship with her Uncle. Although this is a fictional account of Dido’s life, I can’t help but think that Mansfield really did feel this way about his niece. He raised her and her portrait (of her with her cousin Elizabeth) still hangs in his childhood home to this day, why wouldn't he feel something for her? In any case, it was another well represented facet in the movie.
Dido Belle and her cousin Elizabeth Murray: sourcethe portrait that inspired a movie
Then there was the covering of the romance between Dido and John Davinier. Oh my lawd...ya’ll it was friggin amazing and just done so well. I loved the feels that both the actress and actor gave me while I watched. It was a slow build up with Dido meeting him as he assisted her Uncle with some paperwork on legal cases and then with them getting to know each other as John worked on the slavery case her Uncle was making the decision on. Little touches here and there between them, it was all wonderful to see. That he did not pounce upon her or assume she was a certain way because she was mulatto was telling.
Scenes that made me weepy:
John professing his love for Dido in her Uncle’s carriage...girl, bye! it made me do a fist pump and cry, lols...it was heartfelt. Dido telling John how much she loved him.
The most heartbreaking part to watch was Dido looking at herself in her bedroom mirror. I...just couldn't....couldn't deal. I had to pause the movie to catch my breath.
It was like she wanted to rub her skin off and I’m telling ya’ll it hurt to see that. Can you imagine knowing that you are loved, but not really? That you can't be with your family on all occasions? Because of the color of your skin? Heartbreaking.
All and all, I loved the way Dido was represented in this movie...we know most movies can get it wrong and we end up sometimes questioning why it was even made BUT I feel they did a spectacular job here. Dido was smart, beautiful and beloved. English society may have looked down upon her but I don’t think her family did or I like to think that they didn't. Because as the person who wrote the screenplay for this movie, Misan Sagay stated...how does a simple housemaid’s daughter, a woman of color end up in a portrait along well known and prominent family? Represented in the most upstanding way that a POC at the time never wasn't? There had to be something more to it and there was...it was time for Dido Elizabeth Belle's story to be told.
Her story is well portrayed in Belle. And big up to the actress who played the part as well, Gugu Mbatha-Raw did a fantastic job...I don’t think they could have picked a better actress. She WAS Dido Elizabeth Belle. She embodied the character perfectly.
Belle is well worth watching and I implore you to catch it as it just doesn't just cover Dido’s life but it also gives you a good glimpse into English society and how women were treating back then and what social status entailed. BUT the shining star in this movie is Dido herself.
After more research, Murray's family is looking more into Dido's life as many of them didn't know about her and that...that is simply inspiring.
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