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Belle | 2014 | PG | - 3.3.2

Inspired by a Caribbean slave (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the film follows the life of the illegitimate daughter of a slave and a British Admiral (Mathew Goode). Raised by her great-uncle (Tom Wilkinson), she is privileged, yet still considered beneath whites in social standing. Not permitted to seek suitors, she draws them anyway and meets a vicar's son (Sam Reid) who intends to change 18th century British law and society to end slavery in England. Also with Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Miranda Richardson and Penelope Wilton. Directed by Amma Asante. [1:45]

SEX/NUDITY 3 - A man says to his brother, who has called a free mixed race woman an "exotic flower," "One samples the exotic flower on the cotton fields of the Indies," suggesting that white men should use black and mixed race women for sex and abandon them; the man speaking approaches the woman on a lawn at a hedge and grabs her arm hard, hurting her, grabs her chin and mouth in one hand, then below frame, grabs her crotch area as she grimaces tearfully and gasps and then frees herself and walks away. A white man proposes to a mixed race woman and she accepts, but breaks off the engagement in a few weeks; later, another white man proposes to her after she says she would like to marry him, she accepts and they kiss and embrace briefly on the sidewalk in public view (we hear that they married and had two sons). A white man caresses the face of a woman at a garden party.
 A man pulls a woman from a path at a garden party and around a hedge to speak with her and accidentally pulls her tight against his chest; they both look embarrassed and he releases her, apologizing. A woman reports to her cousin, who wants to marry a man that he laid hands on her in the worst way and the cousin cries. A woman cries and sobs loudly and violently when she learns the man she wants to marry is to marry someone with a larger dowry (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details). A woman cries because although white, her mixed race cousin becomes engaged first and to a white man. At a gathering in a home, a mother tells her adult son, "You will refrain from any intercourse with the Negro" (by "intercourse" she means conversation and other interaction, but sex and marriage seem mildly implied as well). A woman tells her cousin that she could fall in love with a man such as a friend of the cousin, who is working against inequality in society; the first woman also states that women are only the property of men.
 In a mansion we see a full-length marble statue of a nude woman with one hand covering one breast and the other hand covering the groin area. On the walls of a mansion we see a painting of male figures wearing tunics that bare one pectoral area.
 Several women wear floor length dresses and corseted gowns that hug the bosom and reveal moderate or greater cleavage in low, square necklines.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 3 - We hear that the captain of a slave ship chained together hundreds of slaves who were becoming ill, having first ushered in illness by refusing them water and passing by eight ports of call where water was available to the ship; he ordered the chained people pushed into the ocean, where they sank and drowned, and then submitted a large insurance claim for their loss, the claim being more profitable than their sale at market.
 After several loud arguments between a law student and the Lord Chief Justice spanning many weeks, the judge ejects the younger man from the judge's mansion and tells him not to return; other arguments follow in public and in a carriage, and the younger man and the white judge's mixed race niece finally confront him about interracial and interclass marriage and slavery; in one street scene, the younger man shouts at the judge and tells him that he loves the niece, even though he (younger man) has no societal rank and the niece speaks loudly that she would marry the law student.
 A mixed race woman enters Parliament and walks into the upper gallery of spectators, receiving angry and surprised stares from men, since women are not to be present, but no one touches her. Angry men on the Parliament floor shout indistinctly several times and grumble when a judge denies a fraudulent insurance claim for dead slaves; in the gallery above, spectators cheer loudly.
 Two cousins argue about a man that one of the cousins wants to marry, but who accosted the second cousin (please see the Sex/Nudity category for more details); the first cousin cries and screams at her relative, and calls her a liar, louder and louder, until she shouts that the second cousin is illegitimate (the argument ends).
 A mixed race woman and a law student vehemently argue with each other, with barristers and with a judge over a fraudulent insurance claim. An elderly woman declares loudly to her two young nieces that they are not to speak foreign languages to two sons of a visiting family at dinner, especially not the tongue of "the blessed French," whom she detests; one niece (of mixed race) insists on knowing why she is not allowed to have dinner with the others, but must eat in the kitchen. A visiting family enters a home and the mother rudely exclaims, "Oh, a Negro!" causing a young woman to feel hurt by segregation from the dinner and becomes tearful in several scenes because of it. A young woman sits in front of her mirror, crying and pounds her chest, rubs her hands and rubs her face hard, trying to rub off her skin color. A white British naval officer argues with his uncle and aunts about his young mixed race daughter and her upbringing while he is at sea; one aunt repeatedly remarks on the girl's color and its consequences in society, but relents. A young woman has several loud arguments with her aunts and great uncle about her color and place in society.
 A drawing on a pamphlet depicts the head and neck of a black slave with a heavy chain and barbed wire around his neck.


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LANGUAGE 2 - 2 mild obscenities, 2 derogatory terms for African-Americans, name-calling (infamous mulatto, old maid, native, fool, childish, son of a vicar [sarcastic], farmer, scoundrel, beast, liar, arrogant parasite), stereotypical references to slaves, slave owners, the rich, bigots, snobs, men, women, the British, the French, Quakers, male gold diggers, 8 religious exclamations (e.g. Good Lord, Lord Knows, Amen, Good God, By the grace of God, Let justice prevail though the Heavens may fall).


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SUBSTANCE USE - We see several men and women drinking glasses of wine at a long dinner table, men drink wine in the drawing room after a dinner, a waiter pours champagne at a garden party (no one drinks), a dark pub scene shows men who drink tankards of ale, ceramic cups of an unknown beverage sit on tables in a meeting room and one man picks up a jigger-sized metal cup and sips what may be an alcoholic beverage, and a man says that an alleyway used by smalltime merchants is full of blind drunks.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Slavery, race, Africans, women as property, humans as cargo, discrimination, class differences/titles/rank in 18th century England, murder of slaves in the Zong slave ship case, insurance fraud, changing the law.

MESSAGE - The determination of one or two people can change a society.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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