on October 16, 1998 by L. J. Strom
"Beloved" brings to the screen Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the ravages of slavery and the tenacity of the human spirit. Oprah Winfrey stars as Sethe, an escaped former slave who lives with her daughter (Kimberly Elise) in a house near Cincinnati in the years following the Civil War. They also happen to share the house with an unseen but decidedly unquiet ghost. The precarious calm of this arrangement is disturbed first by the arrival of Paul D (Danny Glover), another former slave from Sethe's past who now becomes her lover, and then by the appearance of a beautiful but strangely infantile young woman (Thandie Newton) who says her name is Beloved. Paul D's attempts to decipher the mystery of Beloved's presence lead to startling revelations about what slavery--or, indeed, the fear of it--may drive a person to do.
Morrison's wrenching story has been filmed with remarkable skill and restraint. The degradations of slavery are seen only in flashback, but these flickers are so precise and unsparing that they color the entire film. Just as effective are Winfrey and Glover; with power and dignity, they show us two souls who bear the physical and emotional scars of slavery yet remain unbroken--but only just. Newton is appropriately disturbing as the enigmatic Beloved, and of particular note is Elise, utterly winning as the reclusive girl who blossoms into a young woman of strength and quiet confidence. This extraordinary cast is supported by a setting rich in authentic, gritty historical detail and an exquisitely evocative score.
"Beloved" does run a bit long, and occasionally the editing is so brisk as make things slightly confusing. But these are extremely minor quibbles. Mournful and moving, eerie and uncompromising, "Beloved" may leave you feeling that it is not only Sethe's house that has been haunted. Starring Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton and Kimberly Elise. Directed by Jonathan Demme. Written by Akosua Busia and Richard LaGravanese and Adam Brooks. Produced by Edward Saxon, Jonathan Demme, Gary Goetzman, Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte. A Buena Vista release. Drama. Rated R for violent images, sexuality and nudity. Running time: 172 minutes.
Tags: Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise, Directed by Jonathan Demme, Written by Akosua Busia, Richard LaGravanese, Adam Brooks, Produced by Edward Saxon, Jonathan Demme, Gary Goetzman, Kate Forte, A Buena Vista release, Drama, authentic, emotional, slavery

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