Reunions with past loves are complex in the best of circumstances. In her debut feature Ma Belle, My Beauty, director Marion Hill applies this universal truth to relationship with added eccentricities initially and a breakup that was anything but the clean.
Bertie (Idella Johnson), Lane (Hannah Pepper), and Fred (Lucien Guignard) were previously in a polyamorous relationship together. Years later, Bertie and Fred are monogamously married, but when Bertie becomes emotionally distant following the death of her father, Fred calls on Lane in hopes she can help. When talking with Bertie gets nowhere, Lane begins an ill-advised fling with Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), a friend of the couple, in hopes of getting a rise out of the unengaged Bertie.
The use of a polyamorous relationship is well implemented by Hill. It is neither played for a joke nor seen as something impossible to maintain. When Noa asks Lane how she delt with sharing Bertie, she remarks that “it is easy to get along with someone who loves the same person you do”. The shared partner provides something in common between the two, and even after Lane split from the other two, she and Fred share a friendship that is at its strongest when looking out for Bertie.
Ma Belle, My Beauty is a frustrating movie in a directorially intended way. Bertie is an excruciatingly passive character. While Lane’s presence sparks some occasional outbursts, Bertie primarily sulks regardless of Lane’s actions. Similarity, Lane is not without her own frustrating moments. After the slightest rebuff from Bertie, Lane jumps straight into attempting to provoke her ex by starting a fling with Noa. Neither character is fully sympathetic. Watching these two flawed characters stumble through the film evokes a exasperated response and that is exactly the impact Hill was seeking.
Marion Hill’s first film show a significant understanding of the complexities of human emotions and how to capture relationships on screen. The film does not offer any simple answers to questions that seldom have them and is for the better because of it.