Movie Review: Belle

No, this is not a story about the Beauty and the Beast character but this story is still a wonder. The film is based on a 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray where they were both seen as equal, something not seen back then. While not much is known about Dido, this film gives a fantasy idea; with very little details other than her family and marriage the screenwriters took what was happening around Dido to tell a story. As always spoilers ahead. I DO NOT OWN THE PICTURE.

Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is the illegitimate daughter of a British Naval Officer and an enslaved African American woman. After her mother’s death her father, Captain Sir John Lindsay entrusts her with his uncle William Murray (Tom Wilkinson), the Lord Chief Justice, and his wife Elizabeth (Emily Watson). At Kenwood Home Dido is raised along with her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gideon) as a strong independent woman. However Dido struggles with her being mixed, not just her skin but with her status as an heiress. When an oil painting is commenced to show the ladies, Dido worries she will be seen as not equal to her cousin.

Meanwhile Lord Mansfield takes on an apprentice, John Davinier (Sam Reid) as he goes into a big case regarding the insurance claims of slaves killed when thrown overboard, then known as Gregson v. Gilbert now known as the Zong massacre. Dido and John begin a correspondence discussing the case, believing it could mean abolitionist for slaves (while not at the time it was a step in that direction.) During their time Dido and John fall in love, but her family wants her to marry Oliver Ashford (James Norton.) While Oliver is attracted to Dido his family only sees her skin tone, and well they are not shy in pointing that out.

While the historical accuracy is questionable, the story is so well written I almost thought this was how it was. My naiveté aside, the acting is also very good. This was my first time watching Gugu Mbatha-Raw in a film and so far she has done well in every movie I have seen with her. She shines so bright in Belle that I almost forgot about the rest of the cast. With an all-star cast and great reviews by critics, Belle is a periodic film worth checking out.


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