Review: My Life as a Courgette

It took a really long time to finally watch, and yeah, it was alright.

After a terrible accident, a boy named Courgette finds himself orphaned and taken to an orphanage. Once there he learns that he isn’t alone, that life can still be kind, and perhaps everyone has their own problems to bear.

A French animated feature, My Life as a Courgette (also titled My Life as a Zucchini, in the US) was nominated for Best Animated Feature by the Academy awards in 2017, as well as a Golden Globe nominee and BAFTA nominee, often praised as “one of the best films ever made”, and “a modern classic.” You could say the hype was real.
While the film certainly has its charms and its lovely subtly in its characterisation, there isn’t all that much here.

I wouldn’t say this is an animated feature for kids; more designed for an adult’s perspective. The film is quiet, subtle, evoking emotions that strike a balance between childhood innocence and eventual development. All through the eyes of several orphans.
The style of the animation is unorthodox. Noodle-armed characters with severe rings around their eyes, gives a sort of Coraline-esque weirdness to an otherwise perfectly normal setting. But for stop-motion it is very nice, and emotions are conveyed well through the animation.

Our perspective followed Courgette, and certainly things aren’t looking too bright at first. His home is littered with empty beer cans which he collects, while his mother is drunkenly screaming at the television. He hides away in the attic, with the only remembrance of his dad being a drawing on a homemade kite.
After the accident, he finds himself alone and supported only by a kindly policeman and the orphanage children, one of whom is a bit of a bully. So, things aren’t great at first!
But a new girl joins them shortly after and the bully, named Simon, befriends our protagonist. All of the kids become a team, working together to protect the new girl.

It is affectionate enough, and has sweet moments dotted throughout, but it never quite reaches the emotional heights it maybe wants to. At 67 minutes, it moves at a fair clip, which is partly to its detriment; the second act, when Camille is introduced, feels a little emotionally packed and weightless. It is like it is afraid to become bogged down in too many character moments for the kids in the audience.
Again, overall it doesn’t feel like a kids movie, so why not flesh out more of the characters?

However, it has its charms. The kids are intriguing with what they have to work with; an unorthodox sense of humour runs through them thanks to the various backgrounds they have which led them to the orphanage. The writing is sharp, and the pacing is refreshing for an animated feature; subtle and slow.

Not a film for every child; this is a more resonant, expressive, arthouse affair.

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