Belle - Review
The film establishes quickly that Dido originates from an impoverished home and after the death of her mother, she is plucked from these humble beginnings by her biological British Naval officer father, Sir Admiral John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Herein lies my first disappointment. I’m rather fond of Matthew Goode and thought he was simply brilliant in the Australian film Burning Man and also gave solid performances in Stoker, A Single Man and The Watchmen...but here his Admiral Lindsay is soo earnestly good (no pun intended) and soo intensly benevolent, I became too aware of the "performance". I suppose his character is meant to echo in viewer’s mind as the first really decent person of Dido’s acquaintance, but it was a bit hard to watch. Sorry Matthew, better next time eh?
The Mansfield household feels a little bit “Downton” with plumby British accents, Wilton essentially her Downton character, over-exposition and very clearly, deliberately over-enunciated lines. It’s a breath of fresh air when handsome, direct, intelligent yet poor, apprentice, John Davinier, (Sam Reid, Anonymous, The Railway Man) arrives. He is passionate about human rights particularly those of slaves and debates with Lord Mansfield over The Zong Affair case, where 130 slaves were deliberately drowned by the crew and the ships’ owners are seeking an insurance payout. Davinier conveys details of the case to the sheltered but maturing and intelligent, Dido and he and the case leave a lasting impression.
I was moved by Belle and entranced by Dido's particular story against the backdrop of a truly ugly and prolific racism. I would like to see more of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and wouldn’t mind some more of Sam Reid too since he oozes charisma as Davinier. There are period films that have dealt with a similar period to Belle and likewise, have complicated historical plot lines involving court cases like Amazing Grace and Amistad, I just wish that Belle was made with a touch more sophistication and subtlety like these films.
Belle is in cinemas on the 8th May. If you see the film, please share your thoughts below.