What would happen to girl of mixed race if her father is an Admiral in the English navy in the eighteen century? ‘Belle’ tells the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, whose father, Sir Admiral John Lindsay, Matthew Goode, leaves her with his parents, Lord Mansfield, Tom Wilkinson, Lady Mansfield, Emily Watson, and her cousin, Elizabeth Murray, Sarah Gadon.
Belle, (who is called Dido) is raised as a daughter and sister to the Mansfield’s, however, throughout there are glimmers that she is not really one of them. She is not allowed to eat dinner with them if guests are there, but can join them afterwards. After her father dies and she is left an inheritance (which is greater than her cousin's) it is said that she is now free to live an independent life, while her cousin who is penniless will not be able to find a man who will marry her.
Of course into the mix comes a young man, John Davinier, Sam Reid, who is a Vicar’s son. Davinier asks Lord Mansfield (who is a Supreme Court Judge) if he can apprentice to him, to become a lawyer and thus gain a title. While under the tutelage of Mansfield Davinier learns of a case in which a ship of slaves were purposefully drowned. Davinier feels very passionately that this is not only wrong, but that slavery is wrong in and of itself. Dido hears about all of this and suddenly yearns to know more about the case.
While “Belle” is an interesting movie because it is based on a true story, it would have been more so had there been more moments depicting her relationships with the central characters, and not scenes which were meant to move the plot along.
“Belle” persists though in ramming down the throats of the viewer ideas such as slavery is bad, and racism is evil. Those things are patently evident, but all too often while trying to convey ideals, stories themselves become trite, and flat, leaving the audience feeling they were lectured to, with pretty pictures, rather than watching characters come to life.