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:: Belle

Belle tells the moving true story of the woman whose life and love defied convention and left a mark on history. The title is an equally appropriate description for this beautiful costume drama with all the glamour and refinement you would expect from an 18th century period piece. Under the direction of Amma Asante, the film successfully takes you back to a time of gentility and grace.

The screenplay, inspired by an 18th century painting that challenges the conventions of the time by depicting the subjects, Lady Elizabeth Murray (great niece of the Earl of Mansfield) and her cousin of mixed race, Dido Elizabeth Belle,as social equals which was unheard in the day.

The film follows two story lines, one focusing on the trial of the infamous African slave ship, the Zong, where the entire ‘cargo’ of slaves are brutally murdered simply for the insurance, which is worth more to them than their diseased cargo. The other, running parallel to the story, is an account of a young woman of mixed race, and the challenges she faces being raised within the British aristocracy. Both stories are linked by Lord Mansfield, England’s Lord Chief Justice (played by Tom Wilkinson) who not only resides over the trial and also happens to be Dido’s guardian.

Written by Misan Sagay, the narrative, whilst following the strict conventions of the day and capturing the disciplined discourse of the period perfectly, continues with the theme of challenging convention with scenes such as; Dido ending her engagement with Lord Ashford citing his distasteful view of Dido’s heritage and a public show of emotion when she hugs her love interest, John Davinier in the street.

Overall the film is enjoyable, believable and entertaining with a storyline that offers meticulous period detail, wonderful character performances, and deals credibly with race, class and gender.