Having watched Malamaya and Glorious prior to Belle Douleur got me worried. Do we have an oversaturation of May-December movies – and do we only like them for their novelty and steamy scenes? What else can Belle possibly offer that the other two haven’t? Turns out, there’s still a lot more to tell.
Belle is perhaps the most lighthearted of the three. It doesn’t cross to the realm of symbolic, nor does it go heavy on the social stigma that comes with the age difference. Instead, it chooses to focus heavily on the personalities and nuances of both leads – their shared love for antiques, their need for company, their isolation and family legacies – and how these make them click. He arrives at her life at the most opportune time and she takes a chance with him. It’s all romantic and exciting and sappy, and has all the makings of an audience pleaser.
This lightheartedness though also presents a recurring criticism of lacking conflict. There’s some validity to this as the central story is mostly idealized. Not only is everyone around them unwaveringly supportive, but all their disagreements don’t take long to resolve. It’s only that final left-field revelation that gives it the push to end a certain way. And that choice, while interesting and affecting, does sting a bit as Belle has the most potential to finally give May-December movies a genuinely happy ending. It’s as if we’re adamantly convinced and are reinforcing the notion that these romances are fleeting and will never work. I get that there’s a feminist slant to the resolution, but isn’t there still empowerment by standing by her choice to love?
Mylene Dizon is such a great actress, fully fleshing out the intricacies of her character. She’s assured and confident but also curious and childlike. Her acting cutely against a towering Kit Thompson is not something you see everyday.
As the title suggests, the pair’s love story is such beautiful pain. But the question is, why can’t it be bliss?