#SUNDANCE: “MA BELLE, MY BEAUTY”
By Amanda Gilmore for Mr. Will Wong
Newlywed musicians Bertie (Idella Johnson) and Fred (Lucien Guignard) are adjusting to their new life in the countryside of France. This new lifestyle is easy for Fred but Bertie is grappling with depression that’s affecting her singing. However, a change begins happening with Bertie when their former shared lover Lane (Hannah Pepper), surprisingly shows up for a visit.
Director-Screenwriter Marion Hill takes audiences through the desires of three individuals once involved in a polyamorous relationship. Thankfully, Hill doesn’t take a judging eye to the characters’ relationship. She focuses on their wants as individuals, rather than viewing them as interconnected. This gives us a look at the complexities of love along with sexual fluidity and triangulation. In doing so, Hill has created identifiable characters which have been cast expertly.
Johnson is a captivating force as Bertie. She shows Bertie’s tough exterior while exposing the vulnerability she has around Lane. During a breakfast scene, we witness Johnson change between being annoyed, angry, and sad. She then composes herself to hide Bertie’s pain. Pepper gives a great performance as the caring Lane. She keeps mystery within her character until the end. Making audiences question why Lane came back after disappearing on Bertie and Fred years ago, and what exactly she wants. Johnson and Pepper have a powerful chemistry that creates an anticipation in every scene. Their strongest moment together is when they finally have a dinner alone. Bertie feels she can’t open up to Lane, or Fred, and Lane tries to explain how Bertie has two people who love her.
When it comes to intimacy, we often consider it a physical act. However, Hill creates intimacy with words. The intimacy is through small, quiet moments where her characters are being honest with each other. Hill also takes the audience on a journey through a sun soaked summer in the south of France; with beautiful shots of vineyards, candlelit dinners, and farmer’s markets. These picturesque shots are highlighted with an intoxicating Soundtrack of acoustic guitar and jazz music by Mahmoud Chouki. It all comes together to work as a love letter to the region and complements the inner lives of the characters.
Ma Belle, My Beauty screens at Sundance:
Live Premiere: January 30 at 6 PM (EST)
On-Demand (available for 24hrs): February 1 at 10 AM (EST)