Ernest & Célestine, a hand drawn, adorable 2012 French Belgian film has become one of my favorite animated films of all time after the first viewing. It has jumped ahead of The Lion King, Up, Finding Nemo, Ice Age and even last year’s Frozen, which I loved. It was penciled together with tenderness and care, it was charming, yet heartfelt, and it even had undertones of larger themes about our society, but we didn’t feel overwhelmed by the parallel. The story sucked me in, letting me enjoy it without feeling beaten over the head regarding the parallels it draws from our society.
The story revolves around a society that is divided. Mice live underground while Bears live above ground. So what happens when a mouse (Célestine) befriends a bear (Ernest)? That is the simple premise and question that this film asks, and I’m sure you could see the parallels it might draw to our own society simply from that premise. However, the simplicity works effectively and helps build a world around these two characters.
Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you that Célestine is adorable, and one of the cutest animated characters I’ve seen in a long time. Her movements and simple actions make you fall in love with her, while her idealistic views on the world is what keeps you in love with her.
Ernest is her partner in crime, who she helps get food one day, and they are linked ever since. Ernest is a big, fluffy bear. Each society fears each other, but all Ernest wanted was food and all Célestine wanted was to keep Ernest from eating her in their first encounter, and her assertiveness and quick wit kept her out of his tummy.
This film infuses the two main characters with their own personality, and even though this is an animation, the chemistry between the two leads is what sells the film. They are likeable, at times friends, other times they argue, but we love to see them together. That is what makes this film work. We love seeing these characters together, so when they aren’t in the same scene, we are waiting for them to meet up again.
Now, this review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the delicacy and affection with which each scene is drawn and captured. The film makers took their time with the animation, and the penciled in drawings are beautifully done. The drawings look like a mix between water colored paintings and regular pencil drawings, and the result is magnificent.
The most interesting part about the film is that at times, it felt like the film maker was drawing each scene and each set piece as the film was moving along. In most animated films, the world already feels set up and built, the characters just fill up that world. In this, even though at times the world feels built and complete, but at other times, it feels like the film is being drawn as it moves along. It works magnificently.
Overall, the execution of the film is what elevated it above other animated films. It was handled with tenderness and care for the characters, and the two main leads were infused with their own personalities that played well off each other. The only negative I could say about this is that the side characters don’t really get their own personalities. They are just a part of society, afraid and hateful toward the other faction. That is just a small complaint, as the film does a good job of putting its focus on Ernest and Célestine. Overall, I absolutely loved this movie (as if you couldn’t tell by now).
Ernest & Célestine is a French Belgian film, and I would recommend viewing it in its original language, although an English dubbed version was released earlier this year in case you don’t want to read any subtitles. Either way, make sure you watch this movie.