My Life as a Courgette
8th October 2016 6.00pm at Ciné Lumière
9th October 2016 3.30pm at Vue West End
If Disney had their hands on this thing, it would be My Life as a Strawberry, or a banana, or something else sweet and kid-friendly – but never a courgette. It would be too interesting. Thankfully, Claude Barras has no such qualms in embracing this strange and unlikeable vegetable. It fits perfectly into the title for an animation that doesn’t care about sanding down its sharp edges in the interests of commerciality.
Courgette is a nine-year-old boy, who spends his time in his room, drawing on the walls and building a castle – only the building blocks are empty beer cans, whose contents belong to his mother, drunkenly yelling at the television. Courgette does something to upset her; she comes to beat him, he panics and slams a trapdoor on her head. She dies. He gets sent to an orphanage. Pixar couldn’t be further away.
In a year that’s already seen the UK release of Anomalisa, it’s a testament to My Life as a Courgette’s power that it feels like one of the best films ever made using stop motion. Its advantage over regular animation is texture; hand-crafted, bumpy surfaces, dappled with real light, are distinctive and awe-inspiring.
Thank goodness, otherwise the material might be unbearable. With a terrific script from Girlhood’s Céline Sciamma, My Life as a Courgette doesn’t shy away from harsh realities. Courgette soon makes friends with other orphans at the home, including ginger Simon, beautiful Camille, and several other likeable rejects. When Simon – a bully a first, then a friend – spells out their backstories, it’s incredible just how explicit he is. Even filtered through the speech of a child, hearing that the adorable girl with swept hair is a victim of child abuse is shocking.
But My Life as a Courgette doesn’t wallow in misery. Neither do its kids. They play, they hatch plans, they make funny observations about stuff that goes over their head, like sex. Heavy themes of disappointment, abandonment, and family are worn lightly on its sleeve, which makes them all the more powerful upon reflection. While this might make it sound like an animation for adults, it’s not – it just doesn’t tell an excessively positive story to shelter young people from reality. Rather, it’s about how children can use fantasy as a coping mechanism, to persevere in the face of unfair adversity. And what could be more positive than that?
My Life as a Courgette does not have a release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for My Life as a Courgette here: