4. An animated film: My Life as a Zucchini (2016)
List Progress: 6/12 (+6)
This animated Swiss-French film has been on my to-watch list for a while, but it’s not often I find myself with the time and correct energy to watch a quiet, gentle foreign film about the lives of orphaned children. But I am glad I made the space to watch My Life as a Zucchini (aka Ma Vie de Courgette), because while sad, it is also lovely and touching in a way that I rarely see in stories with similar subject matter.
9-year-old Icare, nicknamed Courgette (or “Zucchini” in English), is already alone before he is orphaned. His mother is shown to the audience distantly, a shouting voice or a silhouette in a chair, throwing beer cans at the television. When she dies in an accident, Courgette is sent to a group home to live and attend school with other orphaned children, and the film does not pull punches with why they are there. Parents with addictions and mental illnesses, issues of abuse, deportation and imprisonment: these children are young but they know exactly why they are in these circumstances.
This leads into one of my favorite aspects of the film: the drama arises from the children’s pasts and their internal struggles, not from over-the-top external issues. So many stories with orphaned children go the Evil Orphanage route, but the adults in their lives are genuinely trying to help to the best of their abilities. Courgette wants to go home, obviously, but that is not possible and the adults try to make his life the best it can be under the circumstances. There is a bully in the home, Simon, but it is clear that he is lashing out through his own trauma and the movie has as much compassion for him as it does for Courgette. Courgette is the main character, but it could just as easily be any of the other children, as each have their own struggles and journeys.
The stop-motion animation style may turn some people off, as Courgette’s deep-set eyes take some getting used to, but I think it works very well for this story. These are children dealing with serious struggles, and discussing these issues through animation, often considered a medium only for kid’s cartoons, puts a nice point on it. If you are in the mood for something sad, but still full of the moments of joy and hope that make up life, I recommend giving this one a watch.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, very much so.