BELLE is a film from yesteryear, think a cleverly told Ivory Merchant styled film that could easily be another look at the slave trade, a follow up to 12 YEARS A SLAVE set not long after that time on the other side of the ocean. It is a film I could get not one Salty Kernel to attend, the one person who would love it was unavailable, and the rest, somewhat younger, just turned their noses up at a “period” film. I had been hearing nothing but greatness about it, so moved my screenings around to attend this and boy oh boy am I glad I did, I give this film a huge clap. It is brilliant! And because our friends at  Icon Film Distribution are so kind, we have 5X double passes to see the film. See below my review to win.





BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing. While her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) chases suitors for marriage, Belle is left on the sidelines wondering if she will ever find love. After meeting an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on changing society, he and Belle help shape Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.

The most beautiful thing about this film – while it says “the true story,” it is really inspired by a possible true story, all based on a painting. The film is inspired by the 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle beside her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray. Commissioned by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, then Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the portrait of his two nieces hung in England’s Kenwood House, until 1922. Very little is known about Dido Belle’s life in the Mansfield home. 


BELLE sisters image
BELLE | THE SALTY POPCORN REVIEW | BELLE (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her cousin, ELIZABETH MURRAY (Sarah Gadon)


Possibly one of the best period films I have seen in years. But this is more than your run of the mill period film. It is a clever and ironic look at racism, the ridiculousness of society, etiquette, social graces and the need to be married all while the deconstruction of the slave trade is about to take place. The direction of Amma Assante (A Way of Life) is just superb. She literally weaved a magic carpet with this film. It is almost flawless, in fact when I first came out of this film I told the kernels it was a 5 pop film for me, but I always get very excited during a good film. Assante combines a splendid, compassionate and heartwarming tale of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a bastard child of a high society fling with a black woman in a time when this was not the done thing. Belle has a sizable dowry and is quite wealth and is raised and lives with her Great Uncle and Aunt, who are on top of the social ladder. Belle has a cousin/ adopted sister in Elizabeth Murray, who is beautiful and from superb linage but has no dowry.

And this is where the brilliance of irony comes into this film. Belle is black and therefor lower down the social ladder, in her own family she cannot socialise at the dining table with guests but can join them for refreshments afterwards. She has money and will be comfortable if she does not not find a suitor and marry. And finding suitors is like a meat market shrouded in etiquette and social graces. When Elizabeth Murray goes to find suitors and is introduced to society Belle is not, but Elizabeth Murray finds great difficulty in finding a suitor as males and other families will not allow marriage to her as she has no dowry. She is desperate and wants to marry any male by this stage. Belle, on the other hand, is not allowed to be introduced to society but goes anyway and ends up with two potential suitors.




The acting in this film can possibly win Oscars. Everyone is absolutely flawless. Gugu MBatha-Raw is a breath of fresh cinematic air, I now love her :). Tom Wilkinson always so powerful and sublime onscreen really owns this role, he is the perfect actor to play this troubled and conflicted character who is full of responsibility and compassion. Emily Watson is ideally cast as his supporting wife, who truly, deep down runs the family. Sarah Gadon is a treat as Elizabeth Murray, she is intelligent deep down and has a heart of gold, but is a sheltered, non street smart young lady who has more hope than smarts. I loved Sam Reid, looking forward to seeing more of this man onscreen. He was the perfect gentleman and ideal for Dido Belle’s love interest. Then there was Tom Felton who reprises his role of being a total ass and inhabiting the presence of Draco Malfoy all over again. He does dickhead asshole you hate so well, I bet he went for the role of Joffrey in Game of Thrones. He loves being hated onscreen. And his portrayal of James Ashford was remarkable. He is there to show what is wrong with society and he is basically the twisted opposite and evil male version of Elizabeth Murray. And my final mention has to go to Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones, Prime Minister – from Doctor Who) as Lady Mary Murray – I just love this woman.


BELLE tom felton image


The superb acting is accompanied by costumes to die for – costume designer Anushia Nieradzik would have been in heaven, stunning dresses filled with vibrant colours, just beautiful, as is the art design of the film from Claudia Campana and Ben Smith, the sets are stunning, and what I would consider accurate and beautifully antique filled. I would actually love this era, as long as I was born to high privilege 🙂

The film is a superb look at the era, a great time but the social ladder and etiquette of the time is ridiculous – so many self righteous, born into privilege tools with their heads up their botbots. What I love about this film is that you can see the strain this puts on people, and the way that racism is looked at through Belle; subtle, clever, loving and compassionate. Where as 12 Years a Slave can be very difficult to watch, this film is superb and a film I would happily watch again.

BELLE is out today, May 8th, in most cinemas, is rated PG and runs for 105mins.



4 and a Half Pops


4 Pops


With special thanks to Icon Film Distribution to win one of the 5 x double passes to BELLE you need to either like and share this post on Facebook or retweet/ favourite it on Twitter, you then need to leave a comment below stating the answer to the following question:

What is your favourite period movie and why?  

If you do not have Facebook and Twitter then get with the times old timer haha – You can still enter, leave your entry below and email me at telling me you don’t have social media 

Good luck! Oh, and minor housekeeping – huge apologies for overseas readers, this competition is only available to Australian residents.




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