Period Film Review: Belle (2013)


Let me start off by saying that I’ve been hankering to watch the film since I read the synopsis:

BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield and his wife, Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. (IMDB)

I went to watch Belle with my sister today and, while the previews were still rolling, I squealed at least a dozen times: “Oh my god, oh my god, I’M SO EXCITED!!”

But with great expectation often comes great disappointment.

I would’ve enjoyed this film way more if I hadn’t settled into the theatre expecting a movie with the grittiness of Amistad (1997) and the romance and depth of Pride & Prejudice.

I really, really wanted to like Belle.

belle-movieBut Belle turned out to be (for me) a film that suffered an identity crisis. It didn’t know whether to focus on being a romance or a legal drama, and in its attempt to be both, the film ended up feeling flimsy.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with mixing the drawing-room with the court-room. But Belle didn’t develop both worlds enough. The romance and relationships felt flat. And only a mere glimpse into the ugly reality of the slave-trade politics were offered.

BUT by no means is Belle a flop of a film. This film was sweet and enjoyable to watch, and at times moving. I teared up more than once. Belle was an intensely sympathetic character. And I experienced a few heart-flutters over the romance between Belle and the anti-slavery activist John Davinier.

B-00951.NEFI’m just frustrated, really. This film had SUCH potential to be both breathlessly romantic and politically powerful — but it only scratched the surface. The entire film was like a really good 2-hour long trailer of a film yet to be made.

(Will people come at me with pitchforks? Because I know a few who absolutely adore the film).

In short, Belle is an occasionally inspirational period drama in which bonnets and heaving bosoms often take the spotlight — at the expense of a potentially gripping courtroom drama. I have no issue with this. My issue is that Belle and Davinier are united by shared political beliefs (about anti-slavery) rather than passion – awkward, considering the fact that the political element of this film doesn’t really take centre stage.

Despite the flaws, however, I still found the film enjoyable.

I’ll rate this film a 7-7.5/10


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Period Drama Soundtrack: Belle (2014)

YESSSS!!!! I’ve been waiting for this soundtrack since forever!

I am off to write with this soundtrack on repeat : )


Click here for more period drama music.

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Period Dramas 2014

Here are two completed period dramas that I’ll be watching after I finish BBC’s Bleak House (2005), whichI’m really enjoying!



In an army hospital the staff heal the bodies and souls of men wounded in the trenches. (BBC)



Jamaica Inn is set in 1821. It tells the story of Mary Yellan who lives with Aunt Patience  after her mother dies. Mary finds Aunt Patience under the spell of her husband, Joss Merlyn after she arrives at Jamaica Inn. She soon realises that the inn has no guests and it is being used as the hub of Joss’ ‘free’ trade. Mary becomes attracted to Jem Merlyn, Joss’ younger brother who is a petty thief. Mary meets Francis Davey, the parish vicar, and his sister Hannah. (BBC)


[ O t h e r s ]


Belle (2014)


12 Years a Slave (2013)


Invisible Woman (2013)

Death Comes to Pemblerley (2013)


In Secret (2014)


The Outlander (2014)




Turn (2014)



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Period Film Review: Invisible Woman (2013)

Screenshot from 2014-04-13 015949.
I am a feely type of film-watcher, so I found myself disappointed with this rather stiff and passive film. The scenes chopped quickly through Charles Dickens and Nelly’s love affair. I felt no emotional connection with the characters and consequently felt no sympathy for the two.


Screenshot from 2014-04-13 021303For example, when Dickens confessed that Nelly was the embodiment of every fancy that he’d ever become acquainted with – I just didn’t feel his words. And each time Nelly cried, I stared at the screen dry-eyed and totally indifferent.


Screenshot from 2014-04-13 021236The only sympathetic character in this film was Dickens’ wife. Dickens treated her with such emotional cruelty and insensitivity (in the film, that is). Which made Dickens all the more difficult to like.
What also didn’t work for me: Invisible Woman is a film with a very literary flare. SO literary that the film felt rather portentous and pretentious. And the over-the-top melodramatic soundtrack did not help.

What DID work for me was the acting. The acting was great.

  Screenshot from 2014-04-13 022904The choppy scenes, the lack of emotional development, and the ‘written’ feeling to this film just didn’t cut it for me. As a film-watcher with an unsophisticated mind I would give this film a 6/10.



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Oil-Painting the Character from My Manuscript

Toronto-20140614-04285ssThe Story Behind My Artwork:

I, Miss Bluestocking, was commissioned by well-to-do parents to paint a portrait of their son, Lucas Creswell. He was a young man, 20 years of age, when he first sat down for me and my brush.

I was initially intimidated by his brusqueness but quickly warmed up to him. He was surprisingly humble and unaffected despite his privileged upbringing.

Toronto-20140614-04282 When I revealed the completed portrait to the family, let’s just say the Creswells did not look too pleased. They were expecting something more along the lines of classic realism than impressionism.

There were other issues with the portrait.

Lucas Creswell asked in a solemn voice, “Why, madam, do I have a moustache?”

I expelled a tragic sigh. “My hands, good sir, shook while trying to paint your lips!

Toronto-20140614-04279But the Creswells were still kind to me despite their disappointment.

To this day I am still well-acquainted with Lucas Creswell. We have kept up a correspondence for many years. He is now in his late twenties and is the magistrate of Devonshire.

But when he isn’t busy wielding undisputed power, fixing wages, building and controlling roads and bridges, I often find him taking long walks with his most intimate friend, Miss Amanda Hollingworth. An uncanny young woman with inky brown hair and a crooked smile.


The Real Story:

I wanted to take a few hours’ break from writing. Didn’t know what to do. So I oil-painted my story to life.

The sketch behind the paint


Painting always reminds me of writing. Draft by draft, brush stroke by brush stroke, we layer the story until it’s completed.




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