"As the closing night film at Cannes — and, as such, lumped in historically with such bland films as The Tree, What Just Happened?, Chromophobia and Days of Darkness — writer-director Christophe Honoré's Les Bien-Aimés (aka Beloved) is already at a disadvantage," begins James Rocchi at the Playlist. "Sidelined out of competition, offered up as a final course to cineastes whose metaphorical bellies are already set to burst from an excess of riches, no one was going to think too much about the movie, regardless of its quality. Honoré's film in fact falls short of even the minimal expectations set by circumstance, to be truly tedious, flat and hollow — a recycled exploration of themes and techniques the director has used before inside the bloated casing of a movie with a 145-minute running time."
Honoré's films "are not musicals as Americans might think of them or, for that matter, as Jacques Demy once made them here in France," writes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "They are more soap operettas, to coin a phrase, where characters run up against romantic/sexual conflict and confusions, then stop for a moment to sing pleasant though forgettable little songs about their dilemmas. These aren't musical numbers per se, more a case of someone walking down a street lip-syncing a song to express the emotions of the moment." Beloved "is different from Love Songs in that it covers 43 years, from 1964 to 2007, in the lives of a mother and daughter. These two must confront the problems of love in extremely different eras divided by the specter of AIDS. Honoré has developed a following among some influential French critics, but Americans can only shrug in puzzlement. These soap operettas add up to so very little."
On the other hand, counters Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek, "it stars the mother-daughter team of Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni, as well as fellow beautiful people Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier. And in the Honoré tradition, it's not afraid of overstating its emotions… which isn't the sort of thing that too many American directors (save, perhaps, John Turturro) would even attempt these days."
"As in Love Songs," notes Boyd van Hoeij in Variety, "the lyrics and music were written by Alex Beaupain, and his work again extends the conversations or thoughts of the characters, the difference being that here, it also provides direct access to the characters' emotions. Never conceived for the charts or a cover version on American Idol, the tunes only make sense in context, and Beaupain ensures the lyrics take precedence over the musical accompaniment. As could be expected, some of the lyrics' more poetic qualities are lost in translation. Although the pic races through four decades of sociopolitical turmoil and pan-European locations (Paris, Prague, London), and even lands in North America on 9/11, Honoré is not interested in the grand sweep of history, only in how the passage of time changes realities related to the heart. His location work includes no touristy landmarks, and the camera always stays close to the characters at street level, further adding to the overall sense of intimacy."
Screen's Mike Goodridge agrees that "none of the numbers is a showstopper. But there is pleasure in hearing the terrific actors lay open their hearts through the downbeat music and lyrics, and, by the time Deneuve strolls through the Paris streets in her Vivier pumps, singing through tears and revisiting her reckless youth, Honoré achieves a lovely evocation of the star in Cherbourg, mourning the loss of l’homme de sa vie."
Overall, indieWIRE's Eric Kohn finds Beloved to be "a conventionally bittersweet and perfectly serviceable follow-up [to Love Songs] that affirms his skill without breaking any new ground."