SYNOPSIS: BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing. While her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) chases suitors for marriage, Belle is left on the sidelines wondering if she will ever find love. After meeting an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on changing society, he and Belle help shape Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.
REVIEW: Two beautiful young ladies, ready to come out to society, raised as close as two sisters could be, in the privileged world of English aristocracy. Both so very much alike in so many ways, raised by their great uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson) as if they were his very own daughters. Both on the cusp of adulthood and ready to enter society. But there is something very different about these two young women. Dido (Gu Gu Mbatha-Raw) is the mixed race daughter of a royal navy admiral and a slave, and Elizabeth, her white cousin.
When we think of slavery, we think of America and that period of time that not only divided our country, it was a black eye on our nation. I will never forget watching Roots the mini-series when I was 11 years old. It changed and shaped my view of the world. It was my introduction to what slavery in the United States entailed and I don’t doubt that it was an awakening for many much older than myself.
But I never thought of the effects that slavery had on other places, especially England. I think that was my first thought when I heard about this film. I thought about what a different view this film would bring to the subject of slavery. But as I watched this movie, I was so touched by the personal story of the young Dido and truly amazed to find out that this movie was based on a real story. Dido’s place in her great uncle’s home was not just that of a loving niece and young ladies companion to her cousin, she became instrumental to the abolition of slavery in England.
There is history, a love story, intrigue and truly a beautiful story in this film. Beautiful in aesthetic and beautiful as a story. The gorgeous English countryside and its gardens are breathtaking and views of London proper are historically perfect. I have to say that costume designer Anushia Nieradzik really out did herself in getting such exquisitely detailed and historically on point costumes on screen.
Ms. Gu Gu Mbatha-Raw portrays young Dido so beautifully, so tender yet so determined to make a difference at a time when women were, as her cousin Elizabeth stated “slaves to men” but also despite the fact that she is the half black child of a slave. Amazing! You will see lovely things in this film, but you will also see ugliness in the obvious racism and hatred. If you like period pieces, if you enjoy historical movies, beautiful scenery and lovely women in incredible costumes come to this film, but certainly come if you want to see a different perspective on slavery from a European point of view and possibly how one young woman may have had a hand in the abolishment of it.
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