"Belle et Sébastien: nouvelle generation" or "Belle and Sebastian: Next Generation" is a French live action film from 2022, so this is a really new movie still. In France, it aired already in autumn last year, but it took until January 2023 to make it to my country and this is probably still relatively fast as it will take longer to get to most other countries. If you came here and have a bit of an interest in seeing this film or have seen it already, then this is surely not the first time that you have come across the names Belle and Sebastian. Almost a decade ago, there was another film, also from France, and that one had the same title and it was successful enough for them to make two more movies. Now in the early 2020s they are rebooting the franchise, but judging from what I watched today, I am not too fond of this reboot. The writer of the base material here was Cécile Aubry and she died already before the previous films started, but she has quite a few releases in her body of work that got turned into screen projects at some point. She also has more music credits than I would have thought. Of course, she did live to see the Belle and Sebastian series in the 1960s, so you see these characters go way back in fact, not only in terms of when they got created, but also when they transitioned to the screen for the first time. Let's look at this movie now: The film runs for over 1.5 hours, but stays under the 100-minute mark, so it is not a super long film, but also not extremely short. The director is Pierre Coré who has been in the industry since the beginning of the new millennium, but he was not extremely prolific since then. Approximately every three years a new project, but he also had a break of seven years. Like with what he did before, he was also in charge of the screenplay here. Not just him though, his co-writer was Alexandre Coffre. Not too much to say about the latter. He has enjoyed a fairly successful career in the last decade.
With the cast, you will not find too many really famous names. Unless you are a French film buff perhaps. I will not go anymore into detail there, but you can check out the names yourself if you care. The human title character is played by Robinson Mensah Rouanet. Now this name has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Shame his performance was not on the same level. I mean he was not awful overall, but he did nothing that other child actors could not have done. Maybe could have done better. I guess he was picked from public castings because there are no other projects to his body of work here. This was his very first screen performance. Big role for that. Then again, this was never really an actors' movie. At least not for me. Where the film really shone at times was the nature aspect. The mountainside was awesome to watch there. The dog Belle was also as gorgeous as it gets. On one occasion, I felt as if this dog in real life could be a male, but not entirely sure about that. Its size makes me think so as well. In any case, this is a magnificent hound. No negative feelings there, this canine had awesome screen presence. The noises from it, also from the other dog, were also funny, even if of course they added them afterwards, but this was where the movie was at its most charming and this was all in the first half. Things definitely did not get better there. I initially planned on giving this three stars out of five (or six out of ten),but I had to take more away after thinking about it. There was just a lot wrong with it.
I will just do some brainstorming and mention everything that feels flawed one way or the other. First of all, if we look at the way how the boy deals with the other dog when they meet at the start, then it is difficult to believe that he would grow fond of Belle this quickly. The scene at the very start when he goes to help the boy who is bullied by a bigger boy was also on the cringeworthy side rather. Maybe this was supposed to show us what a caring character he is and that he likes to help those who cannot help themselves (like Belle later on),but it just felt really off and this was no good character writing. Far too obvious. The accident that ensues from it then was not any better. Felt like drama for the sake of it. Another transformation that did not feel too credible was the one of the boy's grandmother who maybe even turned into the biggest supporting player. I mean how she is so mad and worried early on and determined to send Sebastian away immediately when he goes on a trip on his own, that did feel exaggerated and it was also not quality acting. But what is even worse then, is how only moments later we are supposed to believe she changed her mind completely and she is alright with Belle and also does not mind Sebastian staying anymore. This was when Belle in the middle of the night led the boy (and his grandma) to the sheep that was about to give birth and there were some complications. I also had a bit of a hard time to believe this scene, at least the way it was depicted in this movie. There's more. The main antagonist almost turned into a caricature towards the end when he became almost insane and went after Belle with a shotgun. Not that he was more accurate before that. It already started messy when we see him look for Belle relatively early and his flirting with a young(er) female character was a bit on the awkward side. Of course, we are supposed to see him as fully evil because of what he did to Belle, injured her, locked her in, but also because of his threat towards Sebastian and also because he gave cigarettes to children. Those find it fairly cool though, okay only the boys. The girl was not too amazed.
This was a thing that kept going for the entire film. The writing of the two genders was an abomination. We have three (somewhat) beautiful women in here, all tough and dedicated and caring. And the men? The main antagonist is completely useless and helpless also with his begging for her not to leave him in the end. His father is not any better, he also woos the oldest from the trio in a way, at least tries to behave like a gentleman there. There aren't many more male characters. You could pick the ones in the end who are supposed to find Sebastian, but who delay their job because of the weather. So they are useless too while the girls gang is ready and heading off to find him on their own. Of course, they succeed. So if we ignore Sebastian for a moment, all male characters are awful and all females are great, down to the other kids that we do not find out too much about. There it is also a boy who tells the antagonist where he can find Belle. Then there is the story with the water reservoir. This was odd too. I mean at least one of the women has lived there for decades probably with her husband, but they never found it? Difficult to believe. The scene in the end when they are all drinking water from this well was almost comedy material, even if it was not meant as such. The scene when we have Belle kill another animal, break its neck, could have been left out for all I care. I know it was meant to show us how the two title characters have great synergy, but still. I guess it was in Aubry's base material and that's why they decided to include it in the movie. But it was a bit cruel, even if this is nature too and taught us about instinct then. In the middle of the film, there was an attack by wolves when we see what happened to some of the sheep, but the little one survived again. Sebastian's ensuing comment that the young sheep was like Belle felt also a bit far-fetched.
Wolves are depicted as the key antagonist(s) for a while here until towards the end we find out, they are not all bad. They easily could have attacked and killed the unconscious Sebastian, but they didn't, not even in the face of getting more food for their own children this way. We see that at least one of the (female) wolves has offspring right next to her. The last scene was also bizarre then. I understand that we already see early on that Belle wants to go and join the wolves, but there is not really any valid situation or explanation why. She may not be the most domesticated dog, but she is far from being as wild as wolves and I just did not get it. This scene at the end, however, implies that there is closure and that another B&S film seems highly unlikely. They definitely did not go out on a high note here. When we hear the wolf sound coming from Sebastian's mouth, it felt extremely cringeworthy to me. I went through this fairly chronologically now, but there is more wrong with it. One thing would be when granny and the boy fly through the air. Or glide I could also say and this came out of nowhere. There were no such plans and she even indirectly rewarded him there for again not listening to her. This fit, strong and confident grandmother character was in general not exactly a revelation in this movie. I was also a bit shocked by how poor Michèle Laroque was at times. I mean she is a César-nominated actress, even if these nominations happened a few years in the past. But stuck between overacting in the more dramatic moments and her (not exactly) subtle grin, there was little to nothing to her portrayal. Nothing good at least. The writing of course also did not help, but she always could have rejected the role. Just look at the moment when they are sitting outside and talking and she elaborates on her struggles and how it is all too much for her to deal with the farm after the death of her man. Maybe it is better for a male character to be dead in this film than alive. There was nothing poor at least about that one and people seem to hold him in high esteem. These moments of doubt and insecurity are mixed with moments of harmony between the (female) characters when we see one of the two younger female characters sing in the presence of Sebastian and the older woman. Odd back-and-forth too. So yeah, this is it, for me it's a thumbs-down. Skip the watch.