The story follows Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of an admiral who goes off to sea, leaving Dido in his family's care. At first they are stunned and rather perplexed that she was black, but it seems through the course of the movie that many people love her despite her colour, especially her cousin Elizabeth - whom claims she is like a sister to her - and a few men that try to win her heart. I love the relationship between Dido and Elizabeth - very sweet, and very realistic, as even Elizabeth has to snap at Dido at some point.
There is naturally a lot of racial discrimination throughout this film, very saddening in parts, especially when Dido appears to hate herself because of her race and we learn about the slaves that were killed on a cargo ship voyage. Dido finds herself intrigued by the case regardless of her family telling her not to get involved, and sets about trying to solve it and gain justice for the murdered slaves.
Belle was inspired by this 1779 painting, which I find very inspiring. Hopefully many more 18th Century-based movies can be made based around interesting portraits - I'd certainly watch them!