Belle and Sebastian opens in the gloriously vast landscape of the snowy Alps and is a heart warming, uplifting, family friendly film set during the Second World War.
Precocious youngster Sebastian (Felix Bousseut) spends his days around his home village at the foothills of the massive mountain peaks. On the other side of them he believes is ‘America’, where his mother has ventured and will return to him soon. His grandfather (Tcheky Karyo) creates this fantasy to spare him from the reality that his mother died long ago. Meanwhile, Sebastian’s relatives Angelina (Margaux Chatelier) and Guillaume (Dimitri Storoge) spend many of their evenings shepherding Jewish refugees through the precarious landscape to find sanctuary in what is actually neighbouring Switzerland. Their ventures are soon put in jeopardy by the encroaching Nazi occupation and a particularly slimy SS Officer Lieutenant Peter, who takes a reserved interest in Angelina. Meanwhile, the villagers are frightened of a ‘beast’ that they believe is killing their livestock and set out to destroy it.
One day whilst on his usual wanderings Sebastian comes across a large, white Pyrenees mountain dog. Contrary to the mumurs from the villagers, the dog is completely harmless and the two form an instant bond. Sebastian names her ‘Belle’ and the two spend much time frolicking through the glades, the woods and nearby rivers.
This film has an Enid Blyton-like quaintness to its tone, with a young boy and dog teaming up to fight Nazis. It is nevertheless charming and enjoyable, a particular highlight being the cinematography with sweeping vistas of snow-capped mountains and rugged woodlands transporting the audience to a postcard-perfect European countryside. The performances are anchored by both the central figures of Sebastian, played with innocence and wisdom beyond his years by Bousseut and, of course, the dog playing Belle, framed to make her look as cute, loveable and heroic as possible.
With the casts noteworthy performances and the films captivating storytelling as well as its stunning scenic backdrop, Belle and Sebastian is a film that is well worth the watch.
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