My Life as a Courgette is a beautifully realised, stop-motion animated film from director Claude Barras.
Based on the 2002 novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette by Gilles Paris, it is available in both the original French with English subtitles and an English language dub, featuring the vocal talents of Nick Offerman, Amy Sedaris and Ellen Page.
This is not just a film for children but one told from their point of view
A deceptively simple narrative belies the emotional reach of the powerfully affecting themes. This is not just a film for children but one told from their point of view, with the mix of youthful misconceptions and the searing insight that brings. Whilst children are definitely the target audience for this film, it deals with some serious and shocking topics, and never feels the need to talk down to its audience, reminiscent of the stories of Roald Dahl.
The story follows nine-year-old Icare, or Courgette as he prefers - a not-so-affectionate nickname given to him by his alcoholic mother. After an incident early on (heart-breaking, yet brilliantly staged to avoid being overwhelming), he meets kindly policeman, Raymond, who takes him to an orphanage. He is introduced to the five children already living there, along with the adults responsible for running it. Although things are at first frosty between Courgette and the other children, specifically Simon, they soon start to care for one another. Shortly thereafter, a new child arrives, Camille, who Courgette falls for in ta sweetly simple way children do.
All of the children here have suffered abuse at the hands of their parents or the state, whether that be physical, emotional or even just neglect, yet it is this suffering that both brings them together physically to the orphanage, and emotionally, as they bond together. The orphanage here serves as an escape from their previous lives, a chance for them all to be children again. Although, these are children who have known cruelty at far too young an age, so are quick to recognise it when they see it in someone. Conversely, kindness seems to shine out to them, which is also instantly identified.
The bright primary colours of the character models - Courgette has royal blue hair and Simon is like a flaring match personified - happily offsets the more serious issues and themes playing out, and gives each child a unique look. Moreover, they all have distinct personalities and psychologies; key in helping the film to resonate emotionally and feel true to both itself and its thoughtful subject matter.
A sweet, touching, funny movie, with a short runtime of only sixty six minutes, I recommend this to anyone with children or anyone who still harbours a fondness for the innocence of childhood. With universal appeal and a great message - themes of family, love and redemption - this story of children and parents, be they biological or surrogate, deserves to be seen.