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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Strong messages in favor of activism -- i.e. it's important to fight the status quo if it's hurting others, even if that means making yourself vulnerable. Fighting slavery is a key theme of the movie. Issues of race and gender equality are treated with sensitivity and grace.
Positive Role Models
There are plenty of bad apples in the time period in which Belle takes place, but there are also plenty of people who are loving and caring. Dido (aka Belle) is curious, courageous, and trailblazing. John Davinier questions authority in the right way, effecting change in the right way, and Lord Mansfield is a thoughtful, caring father-figure and judge.
Violence & Scariness
Harsh words are directed at a mixed-race woman. Later, a man is shown gripping her too tightly while threatening her. Women and minorities are treated hurtfully with condescension and prejudice.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some flirting; one kiss.
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Characters use the word "negro" as an insult, there is one "damn" and two uses of "Good Lord."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking; some smoking (accurate for the time period).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Belle is a deeply affecting, fascinating drama that brings to light a true story about a mixed-race woman -- the illegitimate daughter of a British admiral in the late 1700s -- who becomes an activist (and a worthy role model!) by educating herself and her uncle on the perils of the slave trade. Though the movie has no curse words and no overtly sexual situations (there's one kiss), the subject matter is complex and perhaps too heavy for very young kids. But older kids, tweens, and teens would do well to see it, as it explores issues of race and gender equality with sensitivity and grace. There's much to learn here from the struggles of 18th-century England, with lessons still applicable today. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
BELLE is an important, engrossing, and incredibly affecting movie. It sheds light on a story -- based on true events though fictionalized to a degree here -- that could have languished in history books and dissertations if not for director Amma Asante and lead actress Mbatha-Raw, who've turned it into cinematic reality. It's complicated in the best way; viewers will find themselves mulling over the issues of race, class, and gender equality long after viewing. In scene after scene, Asante unpacks the layers of prejudice and oppression that cloaked British society in the late 1700s. And though Dido lived hundreds of years ago, her struggles to define her identity and fight discrimination, in thought, speech, and actions, are still relevant in today's world.
Though it helps that screenwriter Misan Sagay sometimes takes great pains to ensure that viewers understand what's at stake here -- that the decision Lord Mansfield is about to hand down could be the first major step in abolishing British slave trade -- there may be a few too many turns in the script. The connection that needs to be emphasized is complicated and very significant, true, but the dialogue is a trifle too pointed, with the significance repeated many times, which doesn't let viewers connect the clear dots themselves. The writing also sometimes sacrifices wit for instruction. But the good far outweighs the (trifling) bad, especially when it comes to the outstanding ensemble of the cast. Wilkinson and Watson are superb as Lord and Lady Mansfield, renegades in their own right, and Mbatha-Raw approaches her role with great care and delicacy. She and Gadon are delightful to watch together, as is the entire movie.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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