Important, affecting, engrossing drama for tweens and up.
Parents recommend
  • Review Date: April 28, 2014
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

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.


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.


Some flirting; one kiss.


Characters use the word "negro" as an insult, there is one "damn" and two uses of "Good Lord."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Social drinking; some smoking (accurate for the time period).

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.

What's the story?

Upon the death of her West Indian mother, Maria Belle, young Dido Elizabeth Belle (played as a woman by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is whisked away to England by her white father, Captain John Lindsay (Matthew Goode), who wants her to be raised among the aristocracy. Because her father must return to sea, Dido is raised by his uncle, the Earl of Mansfield William Murray (Tom Wilkinson), a firm but kind guardian and a very important judge, and his wife, Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson). Dido is loved by her family, including her young cousin, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), who struggles with the standards imposed on women during the late 1700s -- i.e. having to appear to be a good match for a man, with little regard for whether she might find marrying him desirable. But Dido faces an even bigger struggle. Not only is she a woman in a patriarchal society, because of her mixed-race background, she's also treated as invisible (or worse) by almost everyone outside her household. When her great-uncle is called upon to decide a case that could lay the foundation for abolishing slavery, Dido finds her voice with the help of John Davinier (Sam Reid), the activist son of a clergyman.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Belle's messages. Is it easy to stand up for what's right? Why is it important to do so, even when everything seems to be against you? Can you think of any modern situations with parallels to what's covered in the movie?

  • Belle is based on a true story. Do you think it's 100% accurate? Why might filmmakers choose to alter or adjust historical fact? How could you find out more about the real people involved in the story?

  • How does Dido change over the course of the movie? To what do you attribute her growth? Is she a positive role model?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 2, 2014
DVD release date:August 26, 2014
Cast:Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson
Director:Amma Asante
Studio:Fox Searchlight
Topics:Great girl role models, History
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, some language and brief smoking images

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Parent Written bytracyrene May 11, 2014

Belle: Serious, Sumptuous, Age-Appropriate and Thought-Provoking

I took my 8 year old daughter to this because, well, I wanted to see it. There are some moments that are a little intense and distressing as the protagonist is discriminated against and manhandled by one evil character in a brief scene. However, I found that my 8 year old was engaged, completely understood what was going on (minus a couple of questions about how everyone was related, mostly), and was involved to the point of applauding with the rest of the art-house audience when appropriate (I don't want to spoil it for you!). For Austen fans, you get the look but not the feel - no humor or satire here. Pure drama. Some very chaste romance. Lots of room for good discussion afterwards about race, gender and income inequality, slavery, social norms, and the awesomeness of period costume. Equally appropriate for boys and girls. Generally engaging movie and nice to see a black protagonist in one of these. The fact that the story is more or less true makes it that much more interesting.
Parent of a 8 and 13 year old Written byNsg9059 January 18, 2015

Well directed drama covering an important topic

Belle, is the struggle of an older teenager who is taken in by relatives, for her father cannot take care of her. Being of mixed race, she is looked down upon by most of her society (18th century England), and tries to find a way to cope with the harsh insults she receives every day. Watching this movie also can really educate tweens about the history of discrimination in predominantly white countries. The main character falls in love, but it only ends up being one kiss, so that is not of concern.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Kid, 11 years old September 1, 2015


You should know that this was based on a true story. I really enjoyed the movie. It was very well filmed and it really does feel like you are in the 18th century! I recommend that you watch this movie at your next family movie night because this is a movie that must be seen!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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