A boy and his dog … and some Nazis.

Belle and Sebastian was originally a novel by the French actress and writer, Cécile Aubry.  The story was very popular and was made into a French live-action series in 1965.  Oddly, it later was a Japanese anime in the 1980s and now is a French film.  Although the story is quite popular in France, I’d never heard of it and I cannot compare this film in any way to the other projects.  The anime, series or book could be a lot better or worse…I just don’t know.

This film is set during WWII in the French Alps.  Sebastian is a 6 year-old boy who lives with his adopted grandfather and his niece.  The boy is amazingly independent and resourceful—and as the film progresses you marvel at the kid’s courage and tenacity.  Initially you see it when the men of the village go off in search of an animal that is killing sheep.

Belle et Sébastien
Directed by
Nicolas Vanier
Cast
Félix Bossuet, Tchéky Karyo, Margaux Châtelier
Release Date
2014
Martin’s Grade: B+

They assume it’s a dog that has gone feral and they are determined to kill it.  One day, Sebastian is walking in the hills and encounters the dog—and this Great Pyrenees doesn’t seem particularly aggressive and the boy stands there and calmly talks to it.   When the boy sees the dog again later, he even gets the dog to allow him to pet him and soon the pair are friends.  But, the men have vowed to kill this animal and when Grandpa sees the animal, Sebastian goes so far as to stand in front of the dog to shield it from the gun.  This is a good thing because later, it turns out that it’s NOT this dog that is harming the sheep.  Additionally, towards the end of the film, the dog turns out to be a serious blessing.  But, what that is and how he helps saves some lives is something best seen by you.

Although this film has some Nazis in it, the film is appropriate for all ages.  The violence is not too extreme and the film is similar in style to the old movie Lassie Come Home—charming and family-oriented entertainment.  The star of Belle and Sebastian clearly is the location and the cinematography.  It’s rare to ever see a film so beautiful and the film truly is breathtaking.  Additionally, you really have to admire the cast and crew for working some pretty extreme conditions to bring us the movie.  Well worth seeing—particularly if you are looking for something you won’t be ashamed to show your kids or mother!  So why did I only give it a B+ ?  Well, I enjoyed it but I never really felt totally captivated by it nor do I see this as a must-see film.  Pleasant and entertaining, certainly.

Review by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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