Film Review and Commentary: Belle

Belle, the historic true account and coming of age story about a biracial British aristocrat, Dido Belle Lindsay is unlike anything you have ever seen on the big screen.

BelleIn America, the struggle for racial equality remains an ongoing discussion among some blacks. Belle’s story is a bit perplexing to contemplate. Prior to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and the United States, Belle is pushed to the front of the line and given privileges that her race would not see for many years. Interestingly, she is not allowed to dine with white guests of society, yet she is too high to dine with the white servants. You will notice that her skin color still presents challenges.

Understanding the historical importance of this story in the theaters, I pressed my way to see the film. After arriving slightly late, I worried I wouldn’t get the best seat. Even still, my concern proved to be no issue because an abundance of seats remained. To my surprise, I was one of few black faces, and fewer black male faces in the theater. The crowd who had come to see this film was an overwhelmingly white audience.

The trailer for the film can be a bit misleading. Although it is a romantic film, there’s so much more going on with the plot line and you will learn some things. Belle’s a bit defiant, outspoken, and flexes her power with no real worry of retaliation. This is unlike many of the films that depict relationships between blacks and whites during this period.

Belle is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, an English actress who has really brought Belle’s character to life.

“I’d never heard of her, and I just thought, “Wow, this was crazy.” I was like, “Wow, as a biracial woman in the 21st century not to know that this girl really existed.” And once I saw this dual portrait of Dido on the one hand, and her cousin Elizabeth on the other, and how much affection you see between the two of them, and also Dido, having, for the period, this very, very vivacious facial expression and bright-eyed look directly out to the viewer, I thought it was so intriguing to know that she was a real girl that existed at that time. It really inspired my imagination, and the filmmaker’s, too,” Raw said to NPR.

The movie is a beautiful picture, packed full of drama and valuable history. Its story follows a steady beat and will keep your attention. In instances, you might find it to be suspenseful but romance is a reoccurring theme that still prevails.

In comparison to other films that deal with the topic of slavery, your spirit will not be weighed down too heavily but you might leave introspective and triumphant. This is an important film for black Americans to see for its historical relevance but also to see the impact of slavery on the world outside of the United States and the Caribbean.


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