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Movie Review: Belle, The Good and the Bad (But Mostly Bad)

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UPR chapter.

A movie that received a fourteen-minute standing ovation in its world premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival is certainly bound to provoke high expectations. Were they met? Well… let’s talk about it. The 2021 anime film Belle explores the life of a socially anxious high school girl named Suzu who doubles as a beloved pop singer named Belle on a popular social media called U. Suzu’s journey battling anxiety and a particular trauma goes hand in hand with her encounter with the Beast, a mysterious avatar from U, who Suzu becomes intrigued to know more about. 

Belle is pure artistry in terms of the film’s visual effects and soundtrack, but, of course, the film is composed of more than these two factors, and we’ll explore some of them without the need to spoil much.



The main point of the movie is the U app,  a virtual reality platform where people can create an avatar and then … fly around? Even though the plot is centered on what actions and decisions are taken inside this online realm, not much is explained about the app in terms of what people can actually do in it. Can people play games? Do they only fly around and talk? Would they be able to build a world of their own? None of these questions are explained in the movie. The only activity that the avatars seem to do is fly around and wait to attend a Belle concert. Seriously. There is also a sort of group of avatars that seem to rule and monitor the other players, since they have the power to expose their identities. However, we never get to learn much about who they are and why this is a threat when players can, I don’t know, easily avoid this by simply logging offーwhich is an obvious choice that is never shown in the film when characters are threatened. 


Our main character Suzu, also known as Belle, is, as previously mentioned, a teenage girl battling anxiety and loss. This particular detail is interesting since characters should be complex and have overall flaws to bring in depth. What’s fun about a perfect, has-it-all-together character? Suzu is relatable since she reflects emotion, especially insecurities, which makes her empathetic. However, she remains mostly static throughout the film until the very ending. Suzu is a bit boring and bland, which may be intentional, but as consumers of fiction, we crave for character transformation. This does happen at the very end, but given that the movie is two hours long, it takes up a lot of time for Suzu to bloom. Yet, it is, nonetheless, very nice to see her express herself through the U app since she can’t really bring herself to do it in real life. 

This brings me to my next point. 


There are many themes in this movie, which can be both a good and a bad thing. Since there are a lot of topics at hand, such as grief, loss, abuse, family dynamics, social media, identity, love, etc. the film feels that it’s about everything and nothing at the same time. The themes are not thoroughly explored, so it feels, for the most part, pretty shallow and vague. The movie could have been way better if it went in depth on the parallels between Belle and the Beast’s secret identity, since they both use the U app to express themselves in ways that they can’t in the real world. Suzu uses the app and becomes Belle because she is insecure, and he becomes the Beast because he feels safe by doing so. Though these parallels can be deduced, it is not really explored in the movie. 


The Beast is another main character aside from Belle. The Beast is a menace to the U app because he… fights a lot? The movie doesn’t really explain why The Beast is being persecuted. Yes, in terms of parallels, in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is chased down because he is literally and physically a monster. However, in the U app, everyone’s avatar looks fantastical and non-human-like. The only given reason as to why the Beast is a menace is because he has fought and won over 300 battles. However, we don’t get why this is so problematic since we have no idea what exactly goes on in this app. 

As for the other characters, they are completely two-dimensional. None of the other characters do anything interesting or meaningful to the plot, so you might as well not have them. For instance, there’s the “love” interest of our protagonists. They have a couple of awkward interactions throughout the movie, but their dynamic never really develops into anything. The “love’ interest doesn’t move the plot in any way. He literally seems to only stalk and confront Suzu and statically asks her whether she is okay or not, but other than that, not a lot goes on. The same goes for every other character. 

But it’s not all bad!

Yes, the film is a fixer upper for sure, but there’s also plenty of good that goes about it. First of all, the graphics are fantastic! The virtual reality of  U is colorful, colossal, and limitless. A visually appealing craft for sure. The best CG (computer graphics) anime that I have ever seen. 

The soundtrack is phenomenal. The voice of Kaho Nakamura is so clean and somewhat spiritual. Hearing her sing in acapella  is enough to get you all emotional. The movie does a fantastic job in bringing every character together through music, and making Suzu grow from her insecurities through the outlet of this sounding art. 

Also, there are a couple of cool bits in the film to enjoy from. Without entering into much detail and spoilers, for instance, the plot twist and climax are very well executed, unexpected, and emotional.  

Overall review 

Overall, it is a bit hard to connect with the characters and plot of the film since it was in most part poorly explained. The movie wants to talk about many topics, but it feels like it doesn’t really talk about anything because it doesn’t take time to flesh out any of its two worlds. The plot would have been much more organized and narrowed down if it had centered on only two themes and explored them in depth. 

Finally, the idea was there—it was original—but it was not that well-executed. Yet, if you still want to check out the movie, do so! I would still recommend it because it’s like no Japanese animation that I have ever seen before.  

Claudia S. Colon Rosa is the Chapter Leader at the Her Campus at UPR chapter. In addition to overseeing all chapter affairs, she manages the magazine’s editorial and contributes to it as a fellow writer, mainly crafting articles under wellness, life, and entertainment. Beyond Her Campus, Claudia has worked as assistant editor for the English department’s academic journal, Sargasso, where she managed the journal’s printing press and distribution. She has also written for Rebeldia magazine and was part of the Her Campus National Writer program where she published an array of articles. She is currently a senior at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus, majoring in English Literature and pre-medical studies. When she’s not writing an essay or overwhelmed with chemistry formulas, Claudia loves to watch anime and exercise to dance parties on YouTube. She gets the best of both worlds and she wouldn’t want to have it any other way.