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English period dramas are usually full of gorgeous settings, beautiful people and prim and proper fashion. But what these romanticized Jane Austen and Brontë sisters adaptations often overlook is the reality of life for those outside the gilded bubble. The fact is, life in 18th-century England was so wonderful for the wealthy in part because their economy depended on the brutality of the slave trade.
Enter Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha Raw), a girl born to a white British admiral and a black Caribbean slave who is forced to grow up caught in-between two vastly different worlds. Her uncle, Britain’s Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), instructs her to respect the status quo of her situation, where she is at the same time too high in rank to dine with the servants but too low to dine with her own family. In Belle, director Amma Asante offers a stirring twist on the classic period drama romance, and the result is both charming and thought-provoking.