New Orleons, New Thinking

Vanessa Williams in The Courage to Love (2000)

Henriette Delille (Vanessa Williams) is a Creole, one of the daughters which Jean-Baptiste Delille (Stacy Keach) fathered with Pouponne (Diahann Carroll) before abandoning them to marry a white woman. It is one of the traditions and elements of racism which Henriette and other Creole's face as they are raised to believe this is how things are and how they will remain with Henriette supposedly destined to be with Paul Cartier (Graeme Somerville). But the deeply religious and kind hearted Henriette finds herself torn and challenged when she meets French doctor Gerard Gaultier (Gil Bellows) who wishes to marry her despite the disapproval of others including her mother who is driven mad by her defying what is expected of her.

I've been asked many a time why do I watch period dramas when I openly admit to not enjoying their typically stuff styling. The reason is because once in a while I will watch one which restores my faith that a period drama doesn't need to be stiff and regimented and "The Courage to Love" is one such movie. Now in fairness whilst "The Courage to Love" is a period drama it is one with a strong romantic focus as we see Henriette fall for the handsome Gaultier in a time and place where their marriage would be illegal. And there is a sense of grande armour to this, a sort of Mills & Boon vision of romance which I have nothing against although it is a style which works better for some than others.

Gil Bellows in The Courage to Love (2000)

But what I enjoyed about "The Courage to Love" is that it managed to be informative in an entertaining manner, giving the audience an understanding of how things were when it came to European men having children with African-American women before then abandoning them when it came time to settle down and marry. You get a real understanding of the racism and traditions of the time but in a way which doesn't feel like it is lecturing the audience or telling them how to feel about it. That is in many ways quite unique as so many movies which deal with racism tell you how you should feel and to be allowed to feel for yourself helps to draw you in to the drama.

Now Vanessa Williams is one of those actresses who will always be noted for their looks and yes she looks beautiful in this too but she also brings out the emotion of the character and her feelings towards the traditions of the time as being a kept woman is not what she wants. And Williams works well with Gil Bellows who it has to be said does a good job of keeping up the French accent through out the movie.

What this all boils down to is that "The Courage to Love" was a pleasant surprise as not only for a TV movie was it an impressive production but it was a period costume drama which lacked the stuffiness which often make these sorts of movies hard work, or at least for me.

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