Amma Asante’s second directorial project, Belle, has been received positively by critics. Released June 13, the film already holds an 81% fresh rating on review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes.

Belle reviewsGugu Mbatha-Raw places the eponymous character in Amma Asante's Belle

Film critic Geoffrey Macnab from the Independent praised the film: “With Belle, Asante has succeeded in making a sweeping costume drama that confronts questions of race and gender head on - something that Merchant Ivory films rarely managed to do”

Ryan Gilbey of the New Statesman was also impressed with the film, writing: “One of the top points of Belle, expressed in its central metaphor of the portrait for which the cousins pose, is that someone is always at risk of being painted out of history. The fim paints everyone back in.”

Little White Lies film critic Ashley Clark surmised: “Race, love and social politics are deftly handled in Amma Asante’s forcefully-acted feminist period drama.”

Belle reviewsMbatha-Raw at a premiere for Belle

While the majority of critics have praised the film, not everyone was won over. The Spectator’s Deborah Ross wrote: “This is disappointingly lifeless, and shallow, and the soundtrack! So many violins, you’ll leave feeling as if you’ve been quite violently smacked around the head with one. Repeatedly.”

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Siobhan Synnot described Belle as “awfully slow, didactic and far too reliant on Mbatha-Raw’s fine, expressive eyes.”

Belle tells the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a daughter born illegitimately to Admiral Sir John Lindsay in 1761. Raised by her uncle, William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield, she was bought up a free gentlewoman, living at Kenwood House. Although her lineage allows her a certain amount of privilege, being of mixed-race she is never fully able to embrace her noble status.

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Click here to watch the trailer for Belle