Proof that the costume drama can go beyond chocolate-box sweet and address issues greater than its genre, Belle is a sumptuous love letter to the classic period film that nevertheless asks you to stop and think about what you’re watching.

Director Amma Asante tackles her triptych of race, gender and class head-on, unafraid to dovetail Belle’s life as a society girl with the Zong massacre that ignited the question of slavery. Gugu Mbatha-Raw shines as the eponymous Belle, striking a balance between the traditional period drama romance and the film’s deeper meaning with an assured performance, belying her first leading role.

Beautiful and intelligent all at once, Belle is a blistering example of what can happen when the period drama digs a little deeper. As purely enjoyable as it is important, Belle has opened the door to a new era that can only get better from here.



CAST: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, Sam Reid, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Tom Felton

DIRECTOR: Amma Asante

WRITERS: Misan Sagey

SYNOPSIS: The mixed-race daughter of a British naval officer, Dido Elizabeth Belle must navigate the highest echelons of a society that can’t quite accept her.