The Belle and Sébastian bond is pretty hard to resist.

The Scottish pop band Belle and Sebastian took their name from the title characters of this film, the boy and his dog featured in Cécile Aubry’s 1965 book (which previously spawned a live-action movie and anime series).

Much like Heidi, the chipper girl from the Swiss Alps, 6-year-old Sébastian (Félix Bossuet) lives with his grandfather (a very good Tchéky Karyo) in the French Alps. It’s 1943, and a feral dog has been frightening the townsfolk, but the German occupation represents a bigger threat.

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When a neighbor tells Sébastian, “People aren’t born mean. Same goes for dogs,” it’s clear he’s also referring to the Nazis, but Sébastian takes that as his cue to befriend the polar bear-like dog. If Belle means him no harm, she won’t hesitate to bite a Nazi, which makes her a target, so Sébastian risks life and limb to keep her safe.

This is an old-fashioned film in every way, and that’s its biggest strength. It isn’t just set in the past; it looks like a product of the 1970s, from the soft images and lullaby-like songs to such un-Disney sights as dead animals and drunk grandfathers. The politics might be complicated for the little ones, but the Belle and Sébastian bond is pretty hard to resist. recommended

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