BELLE DVD (2014)
SYNOPSIS: Gugu Mbatha-Raw delivers “a breakthrough performance” (Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times) in this “gorgeous must-see film” (Cori Murray, Essence) that’s based on an extraordinary true story. Although Dido Elizabeth Belle (Mbatha-Raw), an 18th century English woman of mixed race, is raised in privilege by her aristocratic great-uncle (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), she is denied a proper social standing because of her skin color. But when Dido falls in love with a young idealist lawyer (Sam Reid) who aspires to create positive change, she finds herself caught between two worlds. With everything to lose, she struggles to convince those around her – and the society in which she lives – to overcome their biases and accept her fully. Only if she succeeds will she find true happiness in this exquisite masterpiece that also stars Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton and Matthew Goode.
Period dramas can be a tricky thing to do. Make it too serious and many will find it a bore. Too commercialized and critics will slam it for being too insincere. It’s genuinely hard to find a middle ground but somehow Belle is a testament that it can be accomplished.
Just like 12 Years A Slave which is based on a true story, Belle tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw who has a role in Larry Crowne), a lady of mixed-racial who is brought up by her great uncle, Chief Justice Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife, Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson). While raised under privileged circumstances since young, Dido finds herself struggling to find her place in society as she grows up to be a fine lady because of her skin colour. But when she finds herself falling in love with an idealistic lawyer John (Sam Reid), she realizes there’s more at stake than just mere society status.
Belle as directed by Amma Asante and written by Misan Sagay is a wonderfully shot corset period drama anchored by a splendid performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Mbatha-Raw herself of mix-racial heritage does a formidable job of portraying a character that is equally strong and vulnerable. Audience will empathizes with Dido when she is manhandled by a despising John Ashford (another villainous outing by Tom Felton from Harry Potter) or cheer with her when she is finally with the man she loves.
Since there are little historical records to refer to, a court case regarding the killing of slaves onboard a trading ship becomes the central plot device to weave in emotional dramatic arcs to showcase the fight for racial equality and most importantly, the relationships between Dido, John and Lord Mansfield.
Though formulaic, this under-the-radar production boasts well-acted performances all round especially when you have Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson on your cast list. Rich locations, authentic looking costumes and a fine score by Rachel Portman add on to this elegant title.
Belle: The Story briefly talks about the plot.
The History Behind the Painting discusses the real-life painting of Belle and her cousin which is now hung at the birthplace of Lord Mansfield.
There’s also a Gallery and Theatrical Trailer.
The DVD boasts a natural looking visual palette and the audio quality is sufficient to showcase the dialogue and environmental sound effects.
DVD RATING :
Review by Linus Tee