Belle

  • Review Date: April 28, 2014
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

Common Sense Media says

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

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

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.

Violence

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.

Sex

Some flirting; one kiss.

Language

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

Consumerism
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.

Parents say

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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?

QUALITY
 

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
Genre:Drama
Topics:Great girl role models, History
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic elements, some language and brief smoking images

This review of Belle was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Educator and Parent Written byjoanb1 January 18, 2015
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Excellence in Film

A wonderful and clean movie. Well written. Very nice to see people of color in a positive light, both in front and behind the scenes. I loved the movie right from start to finish.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Parent of a 8 and 13 year old Written byNsg9059 January 18, 2015
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

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
Parent of a 15 and 17 year old Written byJohn Lang December 17, 2014
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

Great, sensitive movie

I found it a sensitive portrayal of the 18th century England. My teenage kids found the storyline very interesting. Our whole family enjoyed it very much. You are left with the message that "what is right, is right", even if it might not be easy.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

Poll

Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Common Sense Kids Action