Studio: Fox Searchlight (1hr. 45 min)
Plot: An illegitimate mixed-race girl is brought up by her white uncle in Victorian England.
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Sarah Gadon, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Sam Reid
Bottom Line: ***
By Samantha Ofole-Prince
Politics, class, romance and race are some of the subjects explored in “Belle” which is inspired by a true story.
Beautifully acted and well put together, the film follows Dido Belle who is raised as an English aristocrat.
The illegitimate offspring of a slave woman and a white Royal Navy officer, Belle was raised by her uncle, the Lord Chief Justice of England (Tom Wilkinson) in their ancestral estate in 18th Century England. Her lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing.
What makes the film remarkable is that it delves into a part of unfamiliar history. Dido Belle is not a fictional character and was the first mixed-race woman to be raised as an English aristocrat. But since there's much we don't know about her life, director Amma Asante has filled in the blanks by focusing on a love story between her and an aspiring lawyer and anti-slavery activist (played by Sam Reid). As a result, the film is more of a dewy romantic film set far from plantations or slave ships of the time and more among the English upper class, where decisions about slavery are being slowly deliberated.
Still, its superbly acted and well put together for there’s so much packed into its 1hr 45 minute runtime. The societal constraints placed upon women in Georgian England, race, class and gender, which are all deftly explored and cleverly interwoven make it worth the ticket price.