Belle, is a rather beautiful movie and love story. Love on many levels.
The movie begins with the sweet love of a white father for his “illegitimate” black daughter in eighteenth century England. His love and concern for her care creates the setting for the story as he goes off to military service and deposits her in the home of trusted and high society relatives.
The love of two cousins who should have been divided by race and social standing is warm indeed, albeit challenged on a number of turns. Theirs is a love of sisters as it survives and matures through the pre-established episodes of young life.
The love of money and societal position is everywhere. It influences world-views, daily opinions and life choices.
The love of a young slave daughter and the son of a vicar make you cheer them on. Quite an unlikely pair that finds their common passion exceeds their shared interests in the prevailing social issue and justice of the day.
The love of a judge for the law is painstakingly clear as he longs to interpret it well while also deciding what is right above all other opinions and persuasive overtures.
But, the love of human beings, for all people regardless of their color or race or social status is the overarching love of this movie.
Based on a true story from a pivotal legal case in London, England wherein the nature of Africans on a slave ship must be determined. Are they simply cargo or human life? An early domino that eventually would bring William Wilberforce center stage and the British slave trade tumbling down.
Belle is both a powerful and pleasant movie. The film is powerful, because of its timely and timeless message. The inherent value of a person comes from a Higher decree and natural law not social structures or economic utility. Pleasant can describe this story because it is not difficult to watch. It is neither a boring period piece nor an angry social justice statement. There aren’t the exaggerated caricatures of ugly racists. We’ve seen enough of the Donald Sterlings, this film doesn’t include the likes of him. But it does deal with the ugly issue head on, in its own beautiful way.
The three heroes of the film are the judge (“second to the king, you are the most powerful man in England”) who has to wrestle with the law and the very structure (social and economic) upon which his society stands, while still wrestling with and choosing what is “right.” Belle herself, who must come to grips with her identity as a person of color in an all white culture and choose between the opportunity for status or being true to herself and her deep seated convictions as well as her heart. And then there is the Vicar’s son, a man of no stature at all. He is simply a person of principle, whose Christian upbringing and appreciation for transcendent law informs his high view of all people. The latter by desiring to practice law ambitiously wants to change the world. All three, by their noble convictions and love for what is right actually do set the gears in motion for massive world change.