Ernest & Celestine

Bears are big, hungry creatures that will eat just about anything, especially mice. But they won’t stop at just 1 or 100 or 1000, they’ll eat as many as they can find. At least that’s the bedtime story that Celestine’s house mother tells her and all of the other little mice.

In this watercolor-illustrated animation from France, bears live above ground and mice below. Each has built a thriving civilization of industry and commerce. There are the affluent business owners, the starving artist, blue collar workers, and the middle-class professional. However, due to a long history of speciesism, the two animals are forbidden to intermingle. Separation is fueled more by unfounded fear than any tangible rationale. Except, of course, that bears really do eat mice.

Celestine’s career track finds her in a dental internship, but her heart isn’t in it. She’d rather spend her days drawing pictures of bears and mice cohabiting than collecting replacement, false teeth for the teaching clinic where she works. Celestine’s liberal attitudes aren’t to the appreciation of her elders in the mouse establishment.

Ernest is a pan-handling musician who isn’t above foraging through garbage cans or stealing to fill his belly. Celestine and Ernest are kindred spirits, free-thinking artists who chance to meet on one of the mouse’s moonlight incursions above ground as a tooth fairy.

This film is a delightful movie suitable for children and adults alike. Though it is subtitled, the hand-painted frames will more than fill your youngster’s attention. For the adult viewer, it is a commentary on classism and the division of wealth in western society, as well as a criticism of artificially created markets designed to prey on the consumer and benefit the rich. There are pokes at the national police and judicial system, but the take away message from the film is the importance for tolerance.

It has a happy ending.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, 2013
Country: France
Language: French w/English subtitles
Genre: Animation