My Life as a Courgette: NZIFF Review
Blessed with both poignancy and occasional humour,Claude Barras’s layered stop-motion drama My Life As A Zucchini is the sadly, nuanced and yet optimistic animated treat that you'd expect from the festival.
It's the story of Icare, or Courgette, as he'd rather be known. Living in his attic and collecting his bitter single mother's beer cans, tragedy befalls Courgette and he's sent to the local orphanage.
Befriended by the local policeman Raymond, Courgette tries to fit in with the other kids there. But it's not until the arrival of Camille that he starts to come to life.
Bathed in tragedy and with more darkness than you'd expect (murder suicide, abandonment, jailed parents, refugees, neglect) the gorgeously animated claymation film is a bittersweet treat.
There's an underlying sadness running through its veins that makes My Life As A Courgette the story of an orphan that has more in it than Oliver.
Odd lines here and there offer more than hints of the uncertain life faced by the older orphans (one opines that no one looks at the older children) and the hope they all have each time someone visits - it's heartbreaking stuff writ large on a wider canvas and yet, for family viewing, it's a sign that not every animation is rosy.
And yet in among the darkness, there's a playfulness at work too with the happier moments feeling like small victories in the day-to-day loneliness. Plus, it helps that Barras has made sure the adults in charge at the orphanage are actually normal, rather than the usual caricatures of nastiness.
There are plenty of adult touches and less rose-tinted glasses throughout, but the film never loses sight of the fact it's there to entertain as well.
A detour to the snow brings joy and frivolity to proceedings, and the sense of camaraderie is evident. With a luscious colour palette, the film looks great and yet also different with hues and animation feeling a little different from the norm.
Ultimately, My Life As A Courgette is a Euro treat that hints at much more adult and tragedy than you'd expect. But it does it in a way that never rams home the message but delivers it in the most powerful way it could.