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Sarah Gadon as Elizabeth and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido in Amma Asante’s “Belle.”

David Appleby • Fox,

'Belle' chronicles England's first mixed-race aristocrat

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT
  • Star Tribune
  • March 31, 2014 - 10:13 AM

BELLE

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

7 p.m. & 7:20 p.m. Thu. (April 3) (U.K.)

A lavish costume drama starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay, the daughter of a Royal Navy admiral and an African slave, who was the first mixed-race woman to be raised as an English aristocrat. The film is hardly short on ideas about race, class and gender as Belle navigates her way through the hierarchy of George III’s England. Belle is too wealthy to wed below her station, yet too exotic to marry a man of social standing. To the heroine’s Jane Austen-like romantic issues, the film adds courtroom drama. Belle’s stern but kindly uncle (Tom Wilkinson), the nation’s lord chief justice, will decide a milestone slavery case. The production values are sumptuous, with outstanding, painterly cinematography. The performances, from a top cast including Matthew Goode, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton and Emily Watson, are predictably flawless. The luminous Mbatha-Raw more than holds her own. Directed by Amma Asante with highly capable craftsmanship. (104 mins.)

COLIN COVERT

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