Review: BELLE

By Renee’ Collins

Rating: 4.5 (Out of 5 Reels)

I am a big fan of period pieces so when I saw the trailer for this film I knew I wanted to see it.  Plus seeing Tom Wilkinson as portray Lord Mansfield drew me in as well.  An illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle (IMDB).

I suppose I enjoy period pieces because I like immersing myself into the past in order to get a glimpse of what life was like in those times.  It can and usually is eye opening because in some ways mankind has come a long way and in others we have not.  Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) an illegitimate daughter of mixed race is raised by her uncle but since her skin is a different color she is not treated as an equal.  I was struck by one line in the film asking, “why she was not allowed to dine with the help but not good enough to dine with her own family”.  It is extremely sad do see how people of different races were treated in the past.  Such prejudice was commonplace and people never gave it a second thought.

This story is powerful because we see the top barrister Lord Mansfield (Wilkinson) struggle with a case involving slave transportation to America.  Slaves were thrown overboard because the captain of the ship says they ran out of water but we don’t know if that is the case hence the struggle to make a ruling.  Lord Mansfield having a mixed race daughter exposed him first hand to racism he probably would not have experienced had it not been in his own home.  I believe this first-hand experience is what ultimately persuades him rule in the manner he does which ultimately ends up being the catalyst for change in England regarding slavery and its trade.

This film is wonderfully written, acted and visually elegant and I would recommend it to anyone.  Although, I wouldn’t necessarily pay full price to see this kind of film it is definitely worth a look.

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