Belle (2021)

A Review by Myo

A masterpiece that I watched three times and each time it still managed to bring tears to my eyes. Belle tackles many difficult topics - loss, domestic abuse, body shaming, mental disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and it does so in a very sensible and mature way. The art in itself is visually stunning and the music will linger in your head, a soft reminder of the film even after it has ended. I love the concept of how the persona that we assumed online could be so vastly different from reality but regardless, certain things still hold true be it in a virtual or physical environment - the talent that a person has, the motivations that drive a person, and of course judgement on looks.

The relationship that I loved the most in this movie, is the brotherly love between Kei and Tomo. I love the portrayal of how scars need not be physically inflicted to wound, those that were emotionally inflicted by words could cause as much harm or at times be even more damaging. The adults that in societal norms were supposed to guard and protect the young were unreliable in the case of Kei and Tomo. The father figure was abusive and the other adults just gave empty promises without lifting a hand to help them out of the situation they were in. This led to Kei being forced into the role of assuming that father figure for Tomo, to be the protective shield between him and their father, but Kei was only an adolescent, at an age where he should be leading a carefree life without having to worry about his brother. The movie did a good job in illustrating the struggles and the pain through the carefully crafted script. The dialogue between the characters unveils greater insight on the situation that they had gone through and their psyche in dealing with their own internal struggles.

Nonetheless, I had hoped for more screentime given to Suzu and Shinobu. They had a shared history together with a significant event - the death of Suzu's mother that drew them apart, which I thought provided an opportunity to explore an alternative angle of how protectiveness could be counterproductive. This was briefly illustrated when Shinobu hinted that he had assumed a guardian role towards Suzu after the death of her mother and this shaped how he interacted with her. However, his form of interaction with Suzu resulted in her avoiding him or just running away. This could have provided an interesting take on the contrast between how protectiveness was shown and the effects it had in the different relationships. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough focus and depth given to the relationship between Suzu and Shinobu, except for the crush that she had on him. This was a pity.

The third type of protectiveness was a subtle sort that Suzu's father had displayed throughout the movie. His presence in the movie was pretty minimal, as he was estranged from his daughter after the death of his wife. However, he consistently checked in on her (to have meals together) but he doesn't push further when she declined. Towards the end of the movie, it was also mentioned that he does keep in contact with the choir ladies and they would update him on Suzu's situation, which clearly shows that he is keeping a watch on her at a distance. The scene that I cried every single time, was when she read the message he texted her.

Those few minutes expertly conveyed his feelings and thoughts he had towards his daughter, watching over her silently as best as he could while she is struggling to cope with her mother's death.

I appreciated the care that was taken in developing the characters, setting the right tone and effect for each of the scenes, and creating beautiful dialogues that encapsulated each moment perfectly. Belle is not just any ordinary animation movie, it will amaze you and bring you on an emotional ride but at the end of it, it will leave a smile on your face and an imprint in your memory.


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