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In the 1760s, a girl was born to a British Royal Navy officer and a slave woman from the West Indies. She was left in the care of her great-uncle, the lord chief justice William Murray. The lovely period drama Belle offers a fictionalized version of the life of a biracial young woman who had both a family claim to nobility and dark skin. With a name and an income of her own, Belle could become the target of fortune-hunting suitors. Meanwhile, her cousin Elizabeth is highly desirable for her beauty but has no fortune to offer. Both are at the mercy of cruel societal pressures.

Lord Murray cares for both of his nieces, but he has other matters on his mind. He will have to make a ruling in a case that will dramatically affect the role of slavery. While he is good to Belle, she is uncertain that he will be able to stand up to the political pressure.

With its focus on manners, money, women’s limited options, and marriage, this is a civil rights movie for the Jane Austen fan. On disc now. (20th Century Fox)

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