Before we start with the review, I wanted to talk about where you can actually watch Ernest and Celestine full movie, especially for any readers here in the US.
Sadly, Ernest et Celestine isn’t included with any of the streaming services you already subscribe to, which is especially disappointing since the movie isn’t exactly brand new.
You can rent the movie for about 3 bucks from different services, or you can order a physical copy for about fifteen dollars.
If I could make a quick suggestion as to the version you watch, go for the Original French audio cut. Forrest Whitaker does a decent job with the English dub, but the French voice acting fits the tone of the movie much better.
That’s all for that. Let’s talk mice.
I think there’s this very brief time during childhood where a kid feels like their little world just might be the whole world.
They spend their time in the basement with nice carpeting and all these toys, and they’ve been to the park a few times, so it can feel like everywhere on the planet might be just more of this: every building just a cozy carpeted playroom on the inside, and outside, nothing but endless tall trees and blue ponds.
It’s about the 100% carefree kid headspace, sure, but it’s also this really narrow focus where daily life is just about seeking comfort. And the first few years are arguably the only time when this motivation isn’t seen as selfish.
Ernest and Celestine is special for a lot of reasons, but I tend to bring it up in unrelated conversations mostly because I just like thinking about it.
It offers a unique kind of escapism: rather than just offering a world very different than your own, it makes you feel like a kid in that world, and for a while all you need to worry about is how the problems of the plot will end in comfort and safety.
When I watch this movie as a movie geek, I marvel at the beautiful watercolor backgrounds and offer points for effortlessly integrating an allegory about class conflict into a children’s film. The plot pulls the movie closer to reality.
But then it pushes itself away again, out into fantasyland, when the bad people change, realizing their faults and moving to correct them.
Our titular lead characters are not complex, and they’re really not that interesting, either.
They make tough choices, but they do so because there’s just no alternative. There’s never a moment when it seems they might do otherwise.
These are thin characters. We’re not supposed to like thin characters. But it all still works. Why is that?
There’s a temptation to make this review all about the value of shameless escapism, how it’s ok to take a break from real life every once in a while if it keeps you healthy.
But I don’t think escapism is at the heart of what I enjoy about this one.
Here’s a little test that I use to figure out the ‘core image of a movie. It’s real easy, you can try it at home. And of course everyone will probably settle on different images for any given movie, but theres value in knowing what you think the absolute center of a movie is.
All you need to do is say the name of the movie out loud and close your eyes. Whatever image you see in your mind is the core image. How it makes you feel is the tone the movie communicated to you.
When I tried this out with Ernest and Celestine, I saw, well, Ernest and Celestine sitting across from each other at a table, not even talking.
That single image gives me such a feeling of pure calm and companionship.
This isn’t some exotic feeling that only fiction can provide; it’s familiar, and that’s the real value of this movie.
It’s a tiny window into something we’ve all experienced before.
Forgive me for drifting dangerously close to Hallmark territory, but there aren’t many movies that so effectively capture the sensation of finding a place where you’re safe, where, at long last, you’ve been accepted.
And when you find yourself in that place, you can look at the world with some kind of hope, imagining that in every building there are good people, and that outside of those buildings there’s no shortage of quiet landscapes that look like they’re straight out of your favorite storybook.