An entertaining and inspiring story about human dignity.

Belle tells the true story of a mixed-race child taken in by her aristocratic uncle and aunt in 18th-century England.

Growing up, Belle’s lineage allows her prestigious privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from numerous activities within British society. While she at once seemed the shame of her family, Belle becomes deeply admired by those she loves, and becomes an instrumental force in shaping the future of slavery in England.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives a hopeful and emotional performance as Belle, the young woman who is as equally loved by her family as she is unwanted by the larger culture. Belle is an old-fashioned historical drama, full of great storytelling twists and turns, uplifting highs, and discouraging lows.

While I’ve never been too keen on the corset-era period piece, and much of the story feels familiar, Belle is an inspiring and dramatic tale about the worth of human life. It’s good — not emotionally-wrenching, darkly-affecting 12 Years a Slave, good – but Belle shines a light on an interesting angle of the familiar slavery-era genre, painting an interesting picture of the cruelty beneath what was considered “high society.”

+ Presents a fresh angle on the slavery “genre”
+ Continuously entertaining
+ Gugu Mbatha-Raw breaks out in a career-changing performance

– It’s slower than what most movie-goers will be used to
It all feels a little similar to other historical dramas



Belle is a compelling historical drama that presents an angle mostly untouched by most films about the atrocity of slavery.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives a gently emotional performance that grounds the film, and a talented ensemble cast round out the consistently entertaining, if slow, drama. It’s no 12 Years a Slave, but that’s an unfair comparison. Belle does what it set out to do — speak about the dignity of human life through the story of a fortuitously-placed mixed-race member of Britain’s “high society”


Belle is rated PG for “mild language.” The film is slower-paced and about complex issues like race and slavery, so it’s probably not best for young children. 

© Matt Tory, 2014. 

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