Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Reid, Tom Felton, James Norton, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, Sarah Gadon, and Matthew Goode
Directed by Amma Asante
Belle tells the tale of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, the daughter of Captain John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), a well-respected British naval officer who falls in love with a black woman while in Africa who ends up having his baby. Upon her mother's death, Captain Lindsay takes Dido to England where he asks his uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson) to look after Dido while he's off at war. Much to their initial chagrin for fear of how this mixed race child will appear to the rest of society, they agree to raise Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as a free woman along with their other niece Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon). Years later, Captain Lindsay dies and leaves Dido a significant amount of money. This dowry is quite appealing to some English men despite the impropriety that stems from the possibility of marrying a black woman. Although Dido and Elizabeth were quite close growing up, Dido's bequeathment is more substantial than what Elizabeth can offer which sets up much tension amongst the Mansfield's nieces.
Ultimately, this PG-rated film tells an interesting tale -- one that next to no one is familiar with -- but it fails to lift itself to something truly appealing. The acting is all quite good -- Gugu Mbatha-Raw makes the best of what I think is a surprisingly underwritten role -- but with the exception of one or two scenes, the flick lacks any drive or excitement. What could've been a somewhat interesting take on racism in the late 1700s devolves into a love triangle that just doesn't carry the same weight as the story deserves. A nice effort -- with well-done below-the-title craftsmanship and adequate direction -- but Belle misses the mark a little bit.
The RyMickey Rating: C