Loosely based on the real-life subject of a portrait that currently hangs in a Scottish castle, Belle is a very Jane Austen–esque portrayal of Dido Elizabeth Belle. The child of an African slave and an English gentleman, she was nonetheless raised among the high society of her father’s side. There’s plenty of fictionalization here, but the basic facts of the real Belle’s unusual position allow the film to effectively tackle a satisfying blend of social and personal issues. Race isn’t usually the primary topic of such impeccably costumed drawing rooms and garden parties (fear not: husband-hunting remains a close second), but Belle’s subject matter is more remarkable than its form—not a bad thing if you appreciate a well-executed, romantic (if conventional) sweep of a period drama (and I do). recommended