• TOP NOTCH (my top choices)
• HONORABLE MENTION (well worth watching)
• YOU MIGHT WANT TO CONSIDER (I like them but you might not)
• CLASSICS (Great movies up through the 1960s - many don't have any rating)

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson   

Summary -  The story of the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay of the Royal Navy and former African slave, Maria Belle. Recognized by her father, she is sent to live in the household of William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, her powerful and wealthy great-uncle. As debate rages regarding the legitimacy of the slave trade in Britain, she comes of age as gentlewoman, though her place in society is precarious.

Cautions - The film deals with issues of race and slavery.

Commentary - An elegantly rendered costume drama that tells a true story, only recently rediscovered, of a bi-racial woman lovingly raised by her her great-uncle, the Lord Chief Justice of England, and likely influenced his rulings that led to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire.

Even more exciting, to me, than this intriguing plot is the way it was uncovered. The screenwriter, Misan Sagay, was visiting Scone Palace in Scotland and saw a most unique painting showing two young women, one white and one black, together. What made is so unusual was that the white women, Lady Elizabeth Murry, was not shown to be above the black woman (which was common in multi-racial scenes of the era). Both young women seemed to be on equal terms and, what's more, friends.

The amazing story Sagay uncovered in her research on the painting introduces us to Dido Elizabeth Belle. In the movie, events are, of course, dramatized and the history timeline is squashed and manipulated for narrative purposes but they are liberties that I didn't find distracting. I found myself drawn into this world and cheering for the very human characters struggling to overcome social biases.

Opulently designed, and beautifully filmed and scored, Belle also benefits from uniformly excellent performances. I think you'll love it.


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