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My Life As A Courgette - DVD Review

My Life As A Courgette

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

I’VE often thought that animation offers some of the most brave, intelligent and unique films of any given year, whether it’s the likes of Pixar’s Inside Out or French-Swiss stop-motion gem My Life As A Courgette.

Based on Gilles Paris’s book Autobiographie d’une courgette and directed by first-timer Claude Barras from a screenplay by Girlhood writer-director Céline Sciamma, the film offers a triumph against the odds tale that isn’t afraid to tackle some big issues.

Hence, it’s the type of film that plays just as effectively to adults as it does to older children, even though younger viewers may find some of the material above them.

The film picks up as nine-year-old Icare, otherwise known as Courgette, is at home suffering more abuse from his drunken mother. A torn family photo reveals the absence of his dad. But after an altercation on a staircase leads to a tragedy, Icare is sent to a children’s home.

En route, he befriends a sympathetic policeman (voiced, in the English version, by Nick Offerman), who frequently calls in on him as he settles in with the other kids. But it also becomes quickly apparent to Courgette that he is among friends at the home, with one fellow resident telling him: “We’re all the same. There’s nobody left to love us…”

It’s a heart-breaking sentiment, for sure, but Icare soon comes to realise there is a lot of love surrounding him, which eventually translates to another of the children, Simon, who starts out as a potential bully only to become another firm friend.

In setting out to make “a film about children that speaks to them about abuse and its remedies in today’s world”, Barras arguably faced a tall order in not placing the material too far out of reach. In the wrong hands, this could have been clumsy, overly sentimental, jarring and even ill-judged.

But Barras proves to be a masterful filmmaker, effortlessly combining heartfelt sentiment with a realism that resonates well with audiences of every age – and perhaps even more so for anyone who has suffered abuse, or knows anyone that has. As such, it’s a film that comforts, reassures and empowers – proving there can be a light at the end of even the darkest tunnel.

If this all sounds a little heavy, then don’t worry. Barras also ensures that you’ll fall in love with the characters. The stop-motion animation is distinct yet beautifully rendered, meaning that the appearance of Icare and his friends will melt all but the hardest hearts.

There’s also fine vocal support, in English speaking format, from Offerman, who provides a genuinely reassuring presence as the policeman who comes to view Icare as the son he never had.

And for all of the pain and sorrow inherent in the film’s tale, Sciamma’s screenplay is also highly amusing, confronting issues in the way that a child would and often serving up some very funny turns of phrase.

My Life As A Courgette was deservedly shortlisted for an Oscar earlier this year. It’s easy to see why. It is, without a doubt, one of the films of the year: an affecting, compelling and thought-provoking mini-masterpiece that could well transcends its cinematic boundaries for anyone seeking help of their own.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 1hr 10mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: September 18, 2017