“I have experienced that triad set-up before,” says Marion Hill, writer-director of Ma Belle, My Beauty, a romance à trois set amidst the sun-kissed hills of Anduze, in the south of France. “It for sure sometimes feels dangerously personal.”
Yet, while Hill considers her first feature film to be semi-autobiographical, she also took some license in creating its characters Bertie, Lane, and Fred, crafting the story of three who became two after one left unexpectedly.
In the film, an Audience Award winner at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, jazz singer Bertie (Idella Johnson) and bandleader Fred (Lucien Guignard) have married, moved to a vineyard in Anduze, and moved on from their poly days in New Orleans. They’re preparing to go on a concert tour, when their erstwhile third, Lane (Hannah Pepper), arrives suddenly with unclear intentions.
Hill’s intentions as a storyteller were more clearly defined. “It was important for me to access each character,” she says. “So I think I subconsciously was putting different views, different habits, different things I’ll think about in all the different characters. And I think that’s why people feel differently about different characters.
“Some people really love Lane, some people really love Bertie, and some people really just don’t feel good about one or the other. That’s life. It was important that it not feel like this is my experience, from this protagonist’s point of view.”
Hill wanted to depict poly and queer relationships with clarity, but “not preach anything at all, let alone preach polyamory.” Multiple partner relationships are not for everyone. “Just like how queerness is not for everyone,” she adds.
“But I think the reason polyamory was such an accessible topic is because everyone can observe and reflect on what would work for them and what wouldn’t work for them and why. And there are a lot of values and pillars that can be taken from polyamory, and applied to any relationship. I also know firsthand that polyamory can be very challenging, so I wanted to showcase a version that felt true of folks who practice polyamory…and be really honest that there are challenges just like in any relationship.
“It’s not the solution to someone who wants to have lots of partners, period. It’s a lot of work, too, and it doesn’t always go well if you’re not looking out for each other and communicating.”
Ma Belle, My Beauty opens Friday, Aug. 27 at the Avalon Theatre and on Sept. 3 in Baltimore at the Charles Theatre on September 3. Visit www.theavalon.org or www.thecharles.com.
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