When I logged onto IMDb and came to the "Beloved" page (after finishing watching the film), I was extremely surprised at the average 5.4 user rating that this film had. 5.4, are you kidding me? I went in seeing this film without ever reading (or having any knowledge of) the award-winning novel that the film is apparently very tightly based upon. Even without that, this film was amazing. The movie begins with a woman named Sethe (Oprah Winfrey), a former slave living in 1800s Cincinatti, where an unseen presence is tearing apart her house, throwing things against the walls, and injuring her dog. Her two sons ultimately run away, terrified of the house, and her youngest daughter, Denver is forced to stay. Cut to eight years later, a friend of Sethe's, Paul D. (Danny Glover) reenters her life and moves in with Sethe. "We got a ghost here", Denver tells him, and Paul D. mentions feeling an evil presence in her house, but Sethe tells him it's "only sadness". Then later on, a mysterious young woman who calls herself "Beloved" is found standing in the front yard of the house. She can barely speak, can't move, and is almost like an infant in the body of a teenager. But who is she, where did she come from, and why is she there? Sethe's dark past holds the secret to Beloved's identity, which is revealed later on in the film.
"Beloved" isn't a horror film, and I wasn't expecting one either. Granted, there are a few disturbing scenes (and a handful of rather scary moments), but this film is a drama more than anything and really focuses more on it's characters. The story itself is an interesting one at that, and after seeing this I'm tempted to go read the novel (which I hear the film is adapted to very closely). Everything in the film seems to be put together very nicely, and (unlike many people who claim to not be able to follow the story) I followed it very easily. There are some harsh themes that are a consistent part of the plot (mainly Sethe's horrible past as an abused slave) and there are some scenes that are truly hard to watch. While the supernatural element is a main theme in the movie, this isn't your average ghost story. It's not horrific or in-your-face, it's a much lighter and touching. I don't want to go too in-depth into the plot, because there are things that I could easily spoil and wouldn't want to - see the film for yourself. Character development is rampant in the film, and each of the characters mature in a different way throughout the course of the movie, and makes for some very interesting viewing as each of them grow in different ways.
Performances are amazing from everyone involved. I'd never seen Oprah Winfrey act, I'd just seen her television talk-show a few times, but she proves in this film that she can (and very well too). Danny Glover also gives a very nice performance but it's overshadowed by the rest of the cast. Thandie Newton plays Beloved, and plays it perfectly - her character is mysterious and obscure, and she does it well. Kimberly Elise plays Sethe's daughter, Denver, and plays the character excellently. I can't say anything bad about the acting in any aspects - to sum it up as a whole, the acting here is just flat-out amazing. Along with the wonderful acting, the directing is great also. Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (who also directed the award winning crime-suspense masterpiece "The Silence of the Lambs") handles the story well and keeps things consistently absorbing and ultimately haunting. Very nice cinematography is present too, and there are tons of symbolic images throughout the film that are placed nicely in the mix, along with a lot of shots of nature and wildlife.
Overall, "Beloved" is an amazing movie, and the people who are rating this as a '1/10' must have not seen very many movies, because this film is so far from a '1' that it's not even funny. Don't let the average user rating scare you off from this film, because it really deserves much better than that. I guess this is one of those "love it or hate it" movies, but I thought it was an unforgettable movie. 10/10.