Unlike last week where I wasn’t sure what drew me to want to see Ballerina, I know exactly what it was that made me want to see My Life as a Courgette – it’s a stop motion animation film! I’m a sucker for anything stop motion! I swear it’s a total coincidence that this weeks and last weeks animated film review both come from French creators.
For fans of: Aardman, Laika, Tim Burton, Tracey Beaker
Similar to last week and basically anytime I go to see a film, I like to go in not knowing a lot about the film, I don’t want any expectations – all I knew about this film is that it’s based on an orphan, it’s stop motion and somehow Courgette’s fit into it?
My Life as as Courgette (UK), My Life as a Zucchini (USA) and Ma vie de Courgette (France) are all the same film, just to clear that up. The film is a French/Swiss collaboration between French animation studio; Blue Spirit and Swiss director; Claude Barras and is based on the novel by Gilles Paris. The English cast for this film include: Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Amy Sedaris, Susanne Blakeslee and Will Forte.
The plot for Ma vie de Courgette goes as follows; Icare is a 9 year old boy who lives with his mother, however after his father abandons Icare and his mother, his mother becomes an alcoholic. One day in a drunken rage; Icare’s mother goes to aggressively punish Icare causing him to get spooked and accidentally push her down the stairs resulting in her death. Icare is then taken by Raymond; a police officer to an orphanage and explains that he’d rather be called Zucchini (Courgette) as it was an affectionate nickname his mother once gave him. The rest of the film continues with Zucchini adjusting to life in the orphanage.
So from just that short plot excerpt you can see that this once light hearted looking film is in fact, a little dark! I really didn’t expect it, however this doesn’t stop the film being as charming and heartfelt as I once expected, it just makes it realistic. As I’ve mentioned multiple times now, this film is a stop motion animated film, meaning that animators use plasticine or puppets to tell stories using frame by frame photos. I got not even a minute into this film and you could see the beauty of handmade in the sets and props, from Zucchini’s drawings on the wall, his clothes and even the floor boards! It’s cheesy for me to say but there really is beauty in every frame.
I loved the character designs for this film, I liked how all the characters looked realistic but with exaggerated features for example: long arms, big heads, large eyes and bright red ears and noses, it just added charm to each and every character. The producers of this film also did an amazing job at making these kids feel genuine, they acted exactly how kids would! kids are curious and clever but can also be so mean and aggressive, they can lash out, are inappropriate but are also capable of such unexpected kindness and this film demonstrates that perfectly, it doesn’t write kids off and being stupid or clueless, it’s nice to see that. As you can see from the plot mentioned earlier, there are some adult themes in this film from the kid’s stories of how they ended up in the children’s home, some of the kids were there due to their parents being addicted to drugs, some of their parents had severe OCD and one of the children’s parents was even deported. There is also a scene where one of the children asks another slightly older child to “explain what happens between girls and boys” to which the older child explains the basics of sex in a comedic and childish way, which is exactly what kids at around 9-11 are like! This film tackles some harsh things that you might not necessarily want to expose your child to but they do it in a way which is simple to understand and vague but also true, it tells the harsh truth with the minimum amount of sugar coating, it’s nice seeing this being done in a PG animated film, it’s not just a hint to something that only adults would understand, but it’s vague and simple enough information that kids will get the basic idea of and that adults will then piece together to realise the whole story.
I really didn’t expect to like this film as much as I have, it’s really charming and original, I love how heavy and real it could be but also sweet and funny at the same time, it has a cast of lovable, diverse children that act like real kids! and it was nice to see a film that didn’t portray children’s homes as a scary, nightmarish place, it made them out to be lovely communal places to live, which I believe is good to remind children who may be going through a difficult time at home. It’s beautifully made, with all stop motion animation you can see the care and time that was put into each frame. I would highly suggest giving this a watch if you’re a fan of animation or even as a family with maybe slightly older children, I feel that a 4-6 year old may struggle sitting through the 1hr 10min film as there isn’t a lot of action.
I’ve just realised that last week’s review; Ballerina is also a french film about a child living in an orphanage… I promise I’ll shake things up next week.