Hi friends! This review is about a month late but I really wanted to get my views on Mamoro Hosoda’s new film Belle out there as critics are doing their Oscar watches. Please make this stunning anime film a part of your awards consideration! It’s not only one of my favorite movies of 2021 but one of the best theater experiences I’ve had since maybe Avengers: Endgame.
I was fortunate enough to see Belle at a screening at Animation is Film Festival which I attended in Los Angeles this October (read more in my travelogue here). The screening of Belle had a ton of buzz and when I arrived the theater was packed- every seat taken. The director Hosoda was there in attendance and he introduced the film. He talked about how the Disney Beauty and the Beast (which is 30 years old this year! Perfect timing for this fresh take) was something that helped inspire him to become an animator. ‘Now this is my take on the story” he said as he took his seat and the movie began!
And wow! What an experience! I can’t put into words how electrifying it was to be in a theater again where everyone was invested in every aspect of the film. It was so incredible. And fortunately it wasn’t just the moment but Belle is a stunning treatise on friendship, the internet and how we can still rescue each other in 2021.
Belle can be described as Beauty and the Beast meets The Matrix but that doesn’t capture the emotion of the piece. Hosoda is so great at capturing raw human emotion in his stories and this is certainly one of his best. The film tells the story of Suzu, a teenager who is traumatized by a life event and stops singing and interacting much with the world. Then one day she goes onto a virtual reality platform called U and she begins to sing again as an avatar named Belle.
One day Belle meets a dragon who is full of bruises that have powers which she becomes fascinated with. There is also a friend in real life that Suzu friend-zones named Shinobu and 2 brothers she tries to help that are being abused by their hateful father.
All these elements come into play with the gorgeous animation and music to make a very memorable experience. It’s so refreshing to have the story we all know and love but taken to a new and interesting place. This is not the story of finding the good in a monster as the Disney film does. It’s about finding good in the monster of the cyberworld. That it can be a tool to help us all reach out to each other and rescue each other. How needed and beautiful is that?
I know people exist who won’t give anime a chance. I will never understand those people. However, if you are open to the medium watch Belle. It’s a career achievement for Hosoda and one of the best films of 2021. If it gets snubbed for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars I will be outraged (the Academy has a long history of snubbing anime not done by Miyazaki although Hosoda did have his last film Mirai get a nomination). We can only hope.
Belle will be available for general audiences in January when GKIDS is releasing it but critics and selected audiences can see it now. Look out for it!
9.5 out of 10