BELLE takes its inspiration from a 1779 painting made at Kenwood House and tells the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mabatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral in late 18th century England – a period familiar to us from the works of Jane Austen.
Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the colour of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing.
Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son bent on change (Matthew Goode) who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. Miranda Richardson and Penelope Wilton also feature in a splendid cast.
For a bit more historical background, see Wikipedia and the website of the Jane Austen Society.