Movie Review: Bel Canto (2018)

I just got the book this movie is based on at the library and I thought I should watch/read both around the same time. I saw a trailer for this movie earlier this year, and it really intrigued me. I’ve also read some pretty positive reviews of the book from fellow bloggers. But, in this review, I’m only focusing on the film (the book review will be coming in a couple weeks or whenever I can bother myself to read it).

And, I must say, I get why everyone was impressed by it.

Release: Sep. 14, 2018

Synopsis: (taken from Wikipedia) “Roxane Coss (Moore), a famous American soprano, travels to South America to give a private concert at the birthday party of rich Japanese industrialist Katsumi Hosokawa (Watanabe). Just as a handsome gathering of local dignitaries convenes at Vice-President Ruben Ochoa’s mansion…the house is taken over by guerrillas led by Comandante Benjamin (Huerta) demanding the release of their imprisoned comrades. Their only contact with the outside world is through Red Cross negotiator Messner (Koch). A month-long standoff ensues in which hostages and captors must overcome their differences and find their shared humanity and hope in the face of impending disaster.”

Non-Spoiler Review:

This is an excellently made movie, at the very least. Every performance is exceptional, though in my opinion Tenoch Huerta steals the show as the revolutionary kidnapper. The music is beautiful, as is the cinematography. Despite little action happening in the movie, the pacing and plot never seemed boring. The movie spends much more time on building the relationships with all the characters, instead of focusing on the thriller aspects. Oddly, it reminded me in many ways of Silence of the Lambs, both because it is about people who see good and evil very differently and because of the in-depth psychological analysis into violence and corruption.

One of my favorite things is the multiple languages. English, Japanese, and Spanish are all primary languages used in the movie, but there is also a little French and Russian thrown in. Now that’s impressive! However, if you hate reading subtitles, you might not like that.

Saying that, there were a few times in the movie I rolled my eyes (most of which had to do with the ending, which I saw coming a mile away, and which I will delve into further in the spoiler section). The romance, for example, seemed unrealistic, especially between Katsumi and Roxane. The one most important thing in sustainability of any relationship is communication. Without communication, a relationship cannot be healthy or good for either party. And yet Roxane doesn’t speak Japanese and Katsumi doesn’t speak English, making impossible for them to communicate without a translator.

I wouldn’t be making a fuss about this if their relationship wasn’t as central to the plot. Besides the whole rebels holding them hostage, the romance is the main focus. And yet it makes no sense. They can’t even talk to each other. The only reason he likes her is because of her voice and she likes him because…he gave her his coat to use as a pillow? I’m actually not sure. My point is that the main fatal flaw of this movie, in my opinion, was the romance. Without it, this movie would be a great film.

Saying that, I did enjoy watching it. But that ending…

Spoiler Alert!

I’m serious! Don’t read any further unless you don’t mind knowing exactly what happens at the end!

Pretty much everyone you loved throughout the movie dies in the last five minutes. The governmental military breaks into the building where everyone has been held up for the entire movie, killing all the guerrilla soldiers that you actually got to care about as the movie progressed. And Katsumi, in trying to save one of the young rebels, gets shot and killed.

And that’s it…the movie ends with Roxane singing opera on stage and seeing an mirage of Katsumi watching her from off-stage and Katsumi’s translator Gen Watanabe (who fell in love with one of the female rebels) seeing his love in the audience, also alive. It’s quite a sad ending, and one I was a bit disappointed with.

One of the main themes of the movie is the idea that how we perceive people is not always who they are. In the beginning, when the rebels capture the people in the party, we make a quick assumption: rebels are bed and people are good. However, as you get further into the film, the movie tries to justify the use of force the rebels use because it is their last alternative. Their government has turned against them (I can only assume it’s a dictatorship similar to countries like Venezuela, though the exact country is never mentioned) and imprisoned their families for daring to act against the government. In fact, the movie tries to make the rebels seem good, even if what they are doing is bad.

It brings into question the idea of justified force. Is an action still bad even if used against a great evil? In the end, in my opinion, both the corrupt government and the rebels were doing wrong, but the government just happened to be more powerful and ruthless.

However, in the end nothing is solved. The rebels die, and with it I assume their cause. The government is still in control. Nothing has changed. Perhaps that was the point, but I would have preferred more of a moralizing ending.


This is a good movie, and one I could easily recommend. It isn’t perfect, but with so much crap (forgive my language) Hollywood is throwing out these days, this is one of the better ones. It is politically charged though, something I honestly avoided talking about in this review but something that could be examined more thoroughly.

Also, look forward to seeing the review of the book coming soon! I probably should have read the book before watching the movie, but timing just worked out better this way.

Have you heard of this movie? Or the book? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

7 thoughts on “Movie Review: Bel Canto (2018)

  1. Thanks for the movie review. I want to see it because Bel Canto is one of my favorite books. My review below:

    Have you ever been asked to name your favorite fiction title? Have you ever tried to answer this question just for yourself? When I am in this situation, I always think about Bel Canto. I delayed reading this novel for ages. Who needs to read a novel about a hostage situation I would ask myself. Life is tough enough. Wow! Was I wrong. This is an amazing book. Never have I cared about characters so much and been so sad to know that there could not be a happy ending for them all. The set up is a hostage takeover at an opera performance for a private party and the aftermath of this event. All of the characters are nuanced and I cared for each and every one of them. If you have not read this, do so, do so, do so!

    Liked by 1 person

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