First Feature Competition
To use a perhaps an often misjudged phrase, My Life as a Courgette is one of the most life-affirming pictures of recent years. The French stop-motion animation looks akin to Wallace & Gromit/Trumpton/The Herbs all updated with the various progresses in the technology, without losing an ounce of their wonderful charm. The topic of the short feature is not the happiest, but the characters’ spirits are so endearing and inspiring that you’ll find yourself smiling without break.
Nine-year-old Icare (known to all as Courgette) suffers with an abusive mother but never allows himself to lose heart, building towers out of empty beer cans and flying a kite with his absent father on one side and ‘chick’ on the other. After Courgette accidentally ends his time with his mother, he is taken to a local orphanage by a kindly policeman who doesn’t lose touch at the door. Thrown into new company, all of whom have tragic stories, he struggles initially to adjust, especially with the self-proclaimed boss, Simon. However, as everyone realises simply dwelling does them no good, they band together in a stirringly harmonious group, each member looking out for the other – happy even to include following newcomer Camille, who stirs something different in Courgette.
“to walk out of the cinema without a smile on one’s face would be a hard feat to achieve”
The film looks gorgeous and the animation is used as a stylistic choice to tell the tale, rather than an opportunity to break the bonds of reality. Its tone makes an accessible picture for those that may be able to relate directly to the affairs occurring on screen, but enraptures the older audience with a different focus. The often distressing topic unravelling on screen is handled respectfully, with neither ignorance nor an attempt to shirk from the uncomfortable truth. Nor does it focus solely on the children’s situation, preferring instead to set it up, revisit occasionally, but primarily tell the story of a group of young children discovering and adapting to their world around them. Most notable is the discussion on the nature of sex, and how each partner responds, covered in sweat, agreeing, and fearing explosions.
With My Life as a Courgette, director Claude Barras finds the light in the dark, allowing it to flower on screen through the innocence of its protagonists. It can be enjoyed by all without pretence, and to walk out of the cinema without a smile on one’s face would be a hard feat to achieve.
Image: Claude Barras