Icare nicknamed Courgette (Zucchini) by his beer guzzling mom is the centre of this particularly dark story directed by Claude Barras. The film features stop motion animation or marionettes sporting big heads, large saucer eyes and small noses.. At the outset 9 year old Icare is staring out of his steeple like window in the attic where he resides. He flies a kite with a masked superhero drawing meant to be his long lost father. Downstairs his mother watches T.V. complains drinking her beer and throwing the cans at the T.V. screen. Icare collects the empty cans to play with in the attic. A mishap occurs causing his mother's death and the need for Icare to be placed somewhere to live. This is where one would normally expect the story to continue down a dark alley but instead the fortunes of Icare improve dramatically. First he meets a kind police officer named Raymond responsible for his placement directing him to a home with other kids around his age that have escaped varying degrees of difficult home lives. The Adults at the home are all protective and caring. Madame Papineau is the understanding head mistress, Mr. Paul the children's energetic teacher and Rosy the house mother that takes extra special care of the kids while saving her personal time to spend with Mr. Paul.
The film is based on the novel Autobiography of a Courgette by Gilles Paris. The writer sees his book as a tribute to social workers a narrative that flows strongly in the film. All of the children are dealing with trauma and adversity but they bond together, have each other's backs and make their group residence a real home. Perhaps the most complicated of the kids is Simon. At first glance he comes off as a bully but he is the most protective of his fellow residents from outsiders and in the end all he is looking for is a simple letter from his drug addict mom or dad.
The story truly hits its stride when Camille arrives and sparks special feelings for Icare. She also has a difficult story seeing his father who killed her mother commit suicide right in front of her. She is quiet at first but takes on Simon at the first opportunity and seems to be the only person that can reach Alice who suffered abuse at home. Camille is hounded by her Aunt Ida who only wants the child to live with her in order to collect government money.
My Life as A Courgette is a film that has very strong themes and lessons for kids. It shows that despite traumas you can still move forward and bond with others. It points to the realization that you have to pick your attitude and if it's a positive one surrounded by strong protecting leaders happiness and friendship can be achieved. The Oscar nominated film is a notable first effort by director Claude Barras that will play well with pre- teens making it a film that I can highly recommend. Lastly, don't skip out early on the credits as a neat Easter egg of Gasped Schlatter's audition for the voice of Icare in stop motion is planted in the middle.
**** Out of 4.
My Life as a Zuccini | Claude Barras | 66 minutes | Switzerland/ France |66 minutes
Tags; Alcoholic, Kite, Orphan, Abuse, Drugs, Deportation, Arrest, Bed Wetter,Bully, Friendship, Caring, Love, Pregnancy, Field Trip, MP3 Player.