Belle, a naval officer’s illegitimate daughter from an African mother, is taken to live with her great-uncle, the benign – if crusty – Lord Mansfield, also the Lord Chief Justice (played by the wonderful Tom Wilkinson).
When Belle is a young woman he’s required to rule on a claim by slave traders that insurers must cover them for the loss of their ‘goods’ (human beings) – resulting in the first steps toward abolition of slavery in England.
Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Miranda Richardson ensure quality acting and comely newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle) will undoubtedly be seen again.
Will Belle’s love for young abolitionist lawyer (Sam Reid) triumph?
Though never reaching great dramatic heights, Belle engagingly tells an important story. (MMu)
BY MICHAEL MUIR