Enchanting, engaging historical drama

Belle Fox Searchlight Rating: PG 104 minutes

Kudos once again to Carnival Cinemas for bringing in Belle, a movie for Jane Austen and Downton Abbey fans. Sadly, this well-reviewed and well-made historical drama with an excellent English cast, based on a real story, is not getting much box office. The Railway Man, despite starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, is suffering the same fate.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the title character in Belle. She is the illegitimate daughter of an English captain and a black Caribbean woman. Her father takes her as a child back to England where she is raised by her great uncle (Tom Wilkinson) and aunt (Emily Watson) with a cousin. She grows up in comfort and wealth and turns out to be intelligent, beautiful and rich. But, because she is half black, is not accepted by many in class-conscious 18th century England, to the point of not being able to eat at the same table when guests visit her family’s estate.

However, she does attract the eye of a handsome and idealistic local vicar’s son (Sam Reid) and an offer of marriage from a noble. Meanwhile, her great uncle Wilkinson, who also happens to be Lord High Justice, is ruling on a famous legal case involving slavery, which is still practiced at this time.

The talented Mbatha-Raw carries this movie playing a character with two strikes against her; she is a woman (and therefore ‘owned’ by her nearest male relative) and half black. Her’s is a career to watch.

Rating: four deer out of five

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Alf Cryderman is a Red Deer freelance writer and old movie buff.