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Review by John P Harvey
Friends for Life is the final instalment of a trilogy of feature films (originally a book and then a 1960s TV series) of the adventures of a boy and his gorgeous Pyrenean Mountain dog, starring a talented (and just 12 years old during filming of Friends for Life) Félix Bossuet as Sebastian and several dogs as Belle.
Belle is now the mother of three pups, and Sebastian decides to stay in his French mountain village to look after them all rather than join his father and stepmother in Canada. When a vile stranger claiming to be Belle’s former owner turns up to reclaim Belle and her valuable pups – and despite the adults defending them, uses the pups as bait and captures Belle – Sebastian makes it his mission to rescue them all.
This family tale, brim full of loyalty, daring, selfless devotion, and resourcefulness despite the adults’ helplessness, will warm anybody’s heart. The villain is evil incarnate; some of those who would frustrate his schemes are refreshingly courageous; and Sebastian’s preparedness to pay any price for the love of a dog and her pups is repaid when Belle saves his life.
Skilled cinematography brings warmth even to the film’s snow-filled vistas, and conveys a sense of safety and comfort in the crowded interior of the honest, rough-hewn house that is Belle and Sebastian’s family home. Impeccable performances allow younger filmgoers to fully enter into the production, and it would be difficult to walk away from it without a sense of how much better a place the world would be were it filled with people such as this film’s young human protagonist and his faithful canine friend.