"My Life as a Zucchini" makes you want to cry tears of joy and hope
“My Life as a Zucchini” is a well appreciated break in this oversaturated market of animated children’s movies. The only Oscar-nominated animated film with a PG-13 rating, Claude Barras does not veil the awkward yet dire situation of these children in his first feature length film. This is not a children’s movie at all. “My Life as a Zucchini” follows the life of Icare, a 9-year-old nicknamed Courgette (the French word for zucchini).
The film opens with his drunk mother climbing the stairs to Courgette’s room threatening to beat him. He accidentally knocks his mother down the stairs, killing her. His father is nowhere to be found, though later it is hinted that he left his family for another woman. Courgette is taken to a small orphanage where six other children live, all around the same age.
After slowly becoming accepted by the group, Courgette learns why each of the children stay at the home. All of their parents had to leave for different reasons, including drugs, madness, deportation, murder, prison and pedophilia. All the children are broken in some way, with nobody there to love them. Courgette becomes infatuated with a new girl in the home, Camille. Her father killed her mother, then himself, all in front of Camille. The story simply follows the life of Courgette as he stays in the orphanage.
The animated story is very well done in the way that it shows the lives of these children. They are all somewhat aware of their situation, their parents had to leave them behind for some reason or another and now they are too old to expect to be adopted or put in a foster home. Yet, even though they had to grow up too quickly, they are all still children learning about history, sex and love.
“My Life as a Zucchini” is less about the actual story of Courgette, Camille and the others, and is more about the little moments in these kids’ lives, both the bad and the good. When Camille and Courgette sneak out of the house to talk about their situation, they have an incredibly deep conversation that extends well beyond their age. When they return, the children are all joking about juvenile beliefs of sex and love. Camille and Courgette laugh and dump their backpacks on the ground, shouting about a snowball fight. The camera pulls back as teams are formed on the tops of the bunk beds and the laughing and joy continues through the fade into the next scene.
While there is a consistent story throughout the film -- the journey of Courgette as he becomes acclimated to the orphanage and then as he becomes infatuated with Camille -- it is not about him. The movie is more of a study on children, particularly children without any strong parental figures. Courgette’s life is just the mode of understanding a collection of lives: their desire for hope and need and interest in any type of love.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what is so good about “My Life as a Zucchini” the animation style is well done, the voice acting is spectacular and while the story is loose, each moment feeds into the next, creating an attachment to each of the characters and an interest in their lives. The audience feels for each of the children and the adults that are there to help and love the orphaned children. The audience wants the children to succeed in a world where everything is against them.
“My Life as a Zucchini” is the movie to watch when you want to cry tears of joy and hope. Even in a world where so much is wrong, there can still be some moments of happiness. You can still look forward to the next day.
My Life as a Zucchini is playing at Landmark E Street Cinema now.
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