The powerful new movie Beloved is no standard story about slavery told with cotton-picking and leg-irons.
The film is set just after the Civil War, right after the slaves, as we have been so often told, were freed.
The audience learns, however, that the slaves are freed only to be further abused. Winfrey plays an escaped slave who has a tortured past. However, she finds hope for a future with an old friend, played by Danny Glover.
Their love story is subordinated to Winfrey's relationship with her daughters, one of whom is a shy girl named Denver, played by a remarkable Winfrey-lookalike named Kimberly Elise.
The other daughter, the mysterious character nicknamed Beloved, is a haunting figure in an equally haunting film. Played by Thandie Newton, she represents hope, survival, and future generations.
I've called this a story of women, but that's not to call it a woman's picture. I just appreciated the way the film, directed by Jonathan Demme, presents woman after woman, young and old, enduring abuse and somehow rising above it to keep their families together.
Indeed, the deep secret of Beloved is the action that Winfrey has taken in the past to protect her children from the horrors of slavery.
Beloved opens Friday, October 16, and is rated R.
By Gene Siskel