After the passing of his alcoholic mother, a young boy is processed at a police station. Nicknamed Courgette by his mother, he refuses to answer to his real name. He carries with him two precious possessions; memories of each parent he has lost. Courgette finds himself at a small home where other children who “don’t have anyone left to love them” also reside. The small group come with their own heavy baggage and painful reasons for being there. The leader of the pack is Simon – an angry and boisterous boy who sets out to find out why Courgette has ended up where he is. This dysfunctional and unconventional group of souls prove to be something of a more troubled and much younger Breakfast Club with their differences setting them strikingly apart from one another but with enough shared experience to keep them close and loyal. Their home is an idyllic one, a safe landing for many of them who continue to crave a loving family. A French film, My Life as a Courgette has been dubbed by an American cast for British audiences. Despite the fact I would have preferred to see it in its original form, the casting is exceptional. Courgette continues to be visited by the gentle, caring policeman who found him. Voiced perfectly by Nick Offerman, the character is one of few words and a simple honest approach. The children are all given a fragility in the dubbed version – humorously impressionable and curious. Courgette says more with his eyes than his mouth. My Life as a Courgette is one of those animated gems where there is as much explained through silence and expressions as there is through dialogue and exposition.
When a new girl arrives at the orphanage, Courgette begins to form a strong bond of friendship – somewhat smitten with her. My Life as a Courgette walks the thin line between horror and innocence, matching each with its humour and subtle mentions of trauma and tragedy. My Life as a Courgette is a film with great respect for childhood intelligence and the young characters at its centre – rich with understanding and empathy and never patronising them or us. I watched the film with less than ten other people on a sunny Saturday afternoon and was delighted that the otherwise quiet screening was occasionally interrupted by raucous giggles from young children on the back row. This type of joyous, infectious laughter is what animated films should aim to extract from its audiences. It was as joyful to witness this second hand glee as it was to see the film itself. My Life as a Courgette reminded me of the wonderful and intelligent work of Adam Elliot – from his moving short Harvey Krumpet to the deeply moving feature-length Mary & Max. This is smart, emotional and tender film-making – only heightened by the film’s unique look; a reminder of the unrivalled power of stop-motion storytelling.
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