The other day I went to see Belle with my friend, Danners. I’d been to see 12 Years a Slave earlier in the year with Mr T, which, I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy much. I found it too long, self-indulgent, and brutal. I knew that Belle also dealt with the issue of slavery, but I’d heard one reviewer describe it as 12 Years at Downton Abbey… I like Downton Abbey. So I felt I had a 50/50 chance of liking the film.
First of all, it looks glorious. Gugu Mbathu-Raw, who plays the lead character – Dido Belle – is absolute beautiful. I could barely take my eyes off her the entire time. The costumes are gorgeous, and so are the locations, and there are plenty of other attractive actors to stare at (although unfortunately Matthew Goode comes and goes in a matter of minutes).
There are times when Penelope Wilton steals the show, times when you want to punch Miranda Richardson, and shake and then hug Tom Wilkinson, while Tom Felton never strays from his baddie/Draco Malfoy persona.
Yes, it explores slavery, but it does so from the viewpoint Dido – the illegitimate product of a liaison between a white aristocratic man and a black slave woman – who is being brought up in a wealthy household, while the controversial Zong case, which could potentially change the course of slavery in Britain, is played out in the courts of justice.
This is as far from 12 Years as a bar of Galaxy chocolate is from tinned prunes – both technically food but one is much more enjoyable than the other. If you don’t manage to catch this at the cinema, do yourself a favour and check out the dvd release.