Belle and Sebastian: Friends for Life

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Belle and Sebastian: Friends for Life Movie Poster Image
Heartwarming sequel is emotionally intense; peril, violence.
  • PG
  • 2017
  • 91 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Loyalty to friends and family, bravery, and cunning are displayed by adults and kids alike.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sebastian and Cesar risk their lives to save their dogs, and the dogs return the favor. Grandfather and grandson love each other deeply. Cesar's friend the mayor lends a hand to rescue Sebastian and the dogs, despite having to break laws and risk harm to himself.

Violence

Sebastian, who is 12, wanders alone across mountaintops, balance-walking on a fallen tree branch over a ravine and nearly dying in a blizzard. Joseph pursues and threatens young Sebastian, his grandfather, and their dogs by threatening them with weapons, running Cesar off the road twice, punching the mayor in the face, and firing a shot at Belle's mother. Sebastian and Belle lock Joseph in a basement. Sebastian sees his deceased mother in a vision. Joseph dies submerged in a frozen lake.

Sex

Sebastian asks his dad on his wedding night: "You already slept with her?" He replies: "You bet." Sebastian later wonders whether they'll "make babies."

Language

"Scumbag," "stubborn as an ass."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

People drink alcohol at a wedding party, including Sebastian and his school friend, who sneak a glass under the table. Men smoke and some are passed out on the table at the end of the wedding party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Belle and Sebastian: Friends for Life continues the heartwarming story of a boy and his dog in the French Alps, this time as they face the threat of a sadistic gravedigger who will stop at nothing to make Belle and her puppies his own. The dangers Sebastian faces are intense, especially as the gravedigger pursues the boy and his dog, Belle, with a rifle and a knife, runs down Sebastian's grandfather in a tank-like vehicle, sends the boy into a blizzard where he nearly freezes to death and later into a graveyard to hide, and finally is sent to his own watery grave in a frozen lake. Sebastian's farewell to his grandfather at the film's end is a tearjerker, but only because it builds on the tender relationship between the two characters. The boy's mother is also seen in visions and flashbacks, including a scene where she dies birthing Sebastian. Language includes "stubborn as an ass." Sebastian asks his dad on his wedding night: "You already slept with her?" He replies: "You bet." Sebastian later wonders whether they'll "make babies."

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What's the story?

Sebastian (Felix Bossuet) lives a happy life with his adopted grandfather Cesar (Tcheky Karyo) and their four dogs in the French Alps in BELLE AND SEBASTIAN: FRIENDS FOR LIFE. His father (Thierry Neuvic), widowed when his wife (Lilou Fogli) died in childbirth, is about to marry Sebastian's adopted aunt Angelina (Margaux Chatelier) and is considering a move to Canada. It's the first sign the 12-year-old's life is about to change drastically. Then comes Joseph (Clovis Cornillac), an intimidating outlaw who claims that Sebastian's dog Belle and her three puppies belong to him. Joseph will stop at nothing to get the dogs, even threatening to harm them and their owners. Sebastian and Cesar put their own lives at risk to stop his sinister plans.

Is it any good?

Belle and Sebastian: Friends for Life is a film that parents and tweens can enjoy together. The French film completes a novel-based trilogy set against the war-torn 1940s and successfully combines history, location, action, and dog-driven charm. The movie is also beautifully filmed, with gorgeous aerial shots of the snowy Alps and their mountain hamlets. The tale may feel far-fetched, but the actors convey authenticity in both the action scenes and the emotional connections these characters have built together over several films.

Belle benefits especially from solid performances by 12-year-old Felix Bossuet and veteran actors Tcheky Karyo, as the hardened grandpa with a tender heart, and Andre Penvern, who lightens the mood as the town mayor. Co-star and director Clovis Cornillac, looking a lot like Leonardo DiCaprio's ravaged frontiersman in The Revenant, infuses Joseph with a sinister determination, though the film never makes clear what his deeper motivations are beyond the price he might fetch for the pups.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the risks Sebastian takes to save his dogs in Belle and Sebastian: Friends for Life. Do you think he goes too far? 

  • Belle also saves Sebastian's life on more than one occasion, and she seems to understand Sebastian when he gives her instructions. Do you have any experience with dogs this loyal and wise?

  • The film is set in the French Alps in 1948. What do you know about this time and place?

Movie details

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