Gritty drama strikes a ‘Belle’ balance

Film Still Handout from Belle, Pictured: Gugu Mbatha-Raw as "Dido Elizabeth Belle" and Sarah Gadon as Elizabeth Murray, See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews, Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Fox UK Film. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews .

Film Still Handout from Belle, Pictured: Gugu Mbatha-Raw as "Dido Elizabeth Belle" and Sarah Gadon as Elizabeth Murray, See PA Feature FILM Film Reviews, Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Fox UK Film. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FILM Film Reviews .

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‘Belle’ is the dramatisation of a true story of fortitude across racial and class divides at a time when pompous men of privilege were debating the end of slavery in England.

At the centre of the debate is the crew of a ship, Zong, who had thrown dozens of slaves overboard because they claimed they did not have enough supplies. The subsequent trial posed uncomfortable questions about the monetary value of human life.

Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) brings his illegitimate, mixed race daughter Dido (Lauren Julien-Box) to England and entrusts the child to his aristocratic uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson).

Dido (now played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is afforded certain privileges by her lineage but she must remain behind closed doors at important social gatherings.

Elegantly scripted by Misan Sagay, ‘Belle’ is a beautifully crafted companion piece to ‘12 Years A Slave’ that traverses a moral maze through British eyes and reminds us that we have blood on our hands too.

The ensemble cast delivers excellent performances, particularly Mbatha-Raw, who possesses beauty and vulnerability on camera.