Runstedler’s DVD Pick of the Month: Ma vie de Courgette (My Life as a Zucchini)

Ma vie de Courgette (a courgette is a zucchini for North American folks) is a delightful and heartwarming little stop motion film, and probably my favourite animated film since Finding Nemo. Courgette is the main character, a sensitive and intelligent little boy who is abused by his alcoholic mother and likes to make kites. After his mother dies, a benevolent police officer/social worker Raymond, who genuinely understands and cares about Courgette’s well-being, sends him to a nearby orphanage/group home. Is is there that he meets a medley of interesting children from other abused backgrounds, including Simon, who initially bullies Courgette before becoming his dear friend.

After some time, the new girl Camille arrives, and Courgette instantly falls in love. The children plot to save beloved Camille from her abusive aunt who seeks custody (likely for the child payments). I loved the scenes with Courgette and Camille together; their chemistry is so cute and they both share that world-weary Old Father Time look (different circumstances though, thank goodness!). I was also moved with Simon’s relationship with Courgette; they are depicted as friends, but I felt that Simon had implicitly stronger feelings for him, even if it wasn’t reciprocated. Simon seems to understand that, but it was very sweet and I think it was a sensitive and thoughtful depiction of a queer character in a children’s film.

Speaking of which, there is a profound darkness in the film’s subjects, all of which are relevant and important to discuss in today’s society. While the film will appeal to children, adults will understand the film’s darker overtones and more subtle nuances; the film deals with alcoholism, child abuse, the death of a parent, and absent parents, albeit in a very sensitive way. That being said, as Raymond’s garden at home reveals, it is a very positive, hopeful film, with a very satisfying ending and the promise of a better tomorrow. I also felt the film is in many ways a celebration of the creativity and innovations and perseverance of children, as indicated by their artistic abilities, particularly Courgette’s kite.

The animation itself is relatively simple but beautiful to behold. The world-weary expressions reminded me fondly of Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas, but they’re very different films. At 65 minutes, Ma vie de Courgette is relatively short, and based on Gilles Paris’ novel. It won my heart, and I hope you love it too.

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