by Tim Birkbeck
In a world of doom and gloom it can sometimes be difficult to find light relief. For us film lovers the escape of the big screen experience is all we have. In an industry which is constantly pushing boundaries, coming out with new innovative ways to show the unbelievable on screen, who would have thought a stop-motion feature length would bring so much joy.
The film in question is Claude Barras’ My Life As A Courgette, an adaptation of Gilles Paris’ 2002 novel, Autobiographie d’une Courgette.
Courgette (Erick Abbate), whose real name is Icare – but prefers to be called after the vegetable his mother called him – is an unlikely looking protagonist. Blue hair, odd shaped head, and a very sour demeanour to his face. But it is his experience at the orphanage Les Fontaines which pulls the viewer in.After the accidental death of the nine-year-olds mother, he is taken to the orphanage by a kind police officer called Raymond (Nick Offerman) where he meets five other children without parents.
Even though this is an animated film, it does not shy away from the cirumstances of how these children become to live at Les Fontaines, and to Barras’ and screen writer Céline Sciamma’s credit by giving each character a decent backstory we are draw to every single one of them for a different reason. Alice (Clara Young) was abused, Beatrice’s (Olivia Buckner) mother was deported, bully Simon’s (Romy Beckman) folks did drugs, Georgie’s (Finn Robbins) mother has OCD and Ahmed’s (Barry Mitchell) father was jailed for shoplifting.
Simon, is the one who thinks he has the run of the place, but a confrontation with Courgette shows his sympathetic side and plants the seed for what is to come following the arrival of Camille (Ness Krell) who witnessed the argument that left both parents dead, and was living with her aunt until she was brought to Les Fontaines. A budding friendship develops among the rag-tag group, which left this reviewer with a smile from ear-to-ear with just how sweet it was and how funny some of the moments were.
It may seem strange to be talking about how magnificent this stop-motion film is, especially with the level of CGI at peoples disposal these days. But the Plasticine characters are hugely expressive, while the action is dotted with joyous set-pieces like a trip to a ski resort and touching details like the weather-themed mood indicator and hilarious speculations on what grown-ups do in bed. The Oscar nomination, therefore, was thoroughly deserved.
My Life As A Courgette is one of the sweetest and most endearing films I have seen in a very long time, the only down side is that it was so short, but that being said I challenge anyway to watch this film and not walk away with a huge smile on their face.
I bet you can’t.
My Life As A Courgette will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray from September 18
Dir: Claude Barras
Prd: Marc Bonny, Armelle Glorennec, Pauline Gygax and Michel Merkt
Scr: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Erick Abbate, Nick Offerman, Ness Krell, Clara Young, Olivia Buckner, Romy Beckman, Finn Robbins and Barry Mitchell
Music By: Sophie Hunger
Running Time: 66mins