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SXSW 2021: “Ma Belle, My Beauty”


Rating: 3 out of 5.

We always need someone who can encourage us to do things like write, sing, or study. Anything that can help us improve and get better. Or just uplift our mood so we can focus on the positive side of our life and be happier.

Written and directed by Marion Hill, “Ma Belle, My Beauty” centers around a married couple, Fred (Lucien Guignard) and Bertie (Idella Johnson). In order to help her become her old self and continue touring with him, Fred asks her ex-girlfriend, Lane (Hannah Pepper-Cunningham) to join them in France, the same person with whom the couple shared a polyamorous relationship back in New Orleans. What worked then will be threatened in the southern countryside of France due to jealousy, unanswered questions, and uncertain future for some.

When the film opens, we find Bertie and Fred rehearsing as he sings an incredibly beautiful song. “I don’t like it,” says Bertie. She seems down and uninterested in anything. It’s then we learn that Fred invites Lane to his family home, in the hope that maybe she can help Bertie find herself. First, Bertie is not happy seeing Lane, because the woman disappeared from her life years ago without saying a word. Now, after her strange reappearance, it is revealed about their past relationship which Fred seemingly hopes to revive again. Bertie does not want to have anything to do with her but when another woman named Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon) appears in the horizon, Bertie’s unsettling feeling turns into jealousy, which both Lane and Bertie must figure out.

“Ma Belle, My Beauty” could’ve been a great piece if it had explained why, for instance, Bertie is so sad that it forces Fred to bring Lane back to their life. The answer the film provides is not convincing enough. However, as the story unfolds, it manages to redeem itself by providing a deeper and profound solution that will satisfy both parties. Eventually, it’s about two artistic people who seek a muse when they fail to find it within themselves. Lane plays the role of that muse that must either agree to play the game and be left broken-hearted or quit and remain fulfilled inside and be happier.

One way or another, writer/director Marion Hill does her best with her first feature film which she should be proud of. It reaches its goal, opens and closes the film logically albeit with a few flaws that will be quickly forgotten by the time when you reach the end of the film.

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