DETROIT (WWJ) – BELLE is a beautifully told film inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral in 18th century England.
When her father returns to sea, Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is raised by her great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Oscar ® nominee Tom Wilkinson), England’s chief justice, and his wife, Lady Mansfield (Oscar ® nominee Emily Watson). Even though Belle’s lineage entitles her to live with her extended family, the color of her skin prevents her from fully enjoying their aristocratic lifestyle and being treated as an equal. This becomes even more apparent to her as she grows into adulthood alongside her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon), who’s also being raised by Lord and Lady Mansfield.
In addition to being a story about class and society, BELLE is also a history lesson with an emotional love story weaved in. The history-making Zong slave ship trial coincides with Belle falling in love with the idealistic John Davinier (Sam Reid) who’s determined to show the world that, just as the U.S. Declaration of Independence points out, “all men are created equal.”
BELLE is riveting storytelling with the power to touch its audience in so many ways. Mbatha-Raw is outstanding as the film’s heroine; someone who as British Director Amma Asante points out must “carry the weight of an entire film on her shoulders.” And she does exactly that, alongside a stellar cast that also includes Miranda Richardson (Lady Ashford); Penelope Wilton (Lady Mary Murray); Tom Felton (James Ashford); James Norton (Oliver Ashford); and Matthew Goode (Captain Sir John Lindsay).
BELLE is in select Detroit-area theaters now. It opens in select theaters in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing on Friday, May 23rd. Rated PG.
See you at the movies!
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