At first glimpse Belleville might appear to be a film primarily appealing to movie-goers in the Midwest. The majority of the cast are from the area and the film takes place in a small town in southern Illinois of the same name. True, Belleville captures the essence of the warmth and friendliness of Midwesterners and the spirit of a small town coming together, even for the most unusual of reasons. However, this film is a must see for everyone. Every single person needs to experience Belleville, for it is far more than simply “going to the movies.”
Belleville is a beautiful journey that writer and director, Dan Steadman, takes us on, as we explore the life of Willie (Tim O’Leary), a depressed recluse still struggling with the loss of his wife. As Willie continually keeps himself busy on his farm, the town busy-body, Arlene (Cooper Shaw), takes no issue with stirring things up- both for Willie and the entire town. Arlene’s current conquest is to drive a new out-of-towner, Neila (Ted Trent), away, and she will go to any length to assure this happens. The thing is, Neila is exactly what Willie, and the entire town for that matter, needs. Described by the locals as “odd”, “weird”, and “special” Neila’s warmth, generosity, and innocence is endearing and before long everyone is drawn to him, except of course, Arlene. Neila quickly becomes captivating to the audience as well. Trent’s portrayal of Neila is astounding, and the pure human emotion he solicits from such an unusual character is refreshing. The entire cast’s performances are strong. Notable- Shaw was awarded Best Supporting Actress by the American Movie Awards. Steadman adds a special touch to the story-telling as members of the community share their perspective of Willie, Arlene, and Neila.
There are no high-adrenaline car chases, jaw-dropping visual effects, or scandalous plots in this film. No, Belleville delivers a much more impactful and long-lasting punch. From the movie’s opening, to the last scene, every moment holds the viewer’s attention. This is a rich story about relationships, community, and human connection. Belleville is not just a feel-good movie. It’s a time-less film that authentically elicits a lasting impression of hope and inspiration.