There are arguably three ways to grab people’s attention when trying to promote a movie. Number one is to just have a great original idea. The second is to create an eye-catching poster. And number three is to cut together a great trailer.
But if all else fails, it might be best to come up with a title so strange/exciting/idiotic, that you can grab a person’s attention in a heartbeat. Case in point: Snakes on a Plane, Sharknado, The Men Who Stare At Goats, and of course, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
So when walking into My Life as a Courgette (MLaaC), my mind boggled at the possibilities. What could be expected? A film about a man who thinks he’s a courgette? A spy who has to go undercover in a grocery store in order to uncover a globe-spanning courgette conspiracy? Or maybe it’s just about a dude who falls in love with a girl called Courgette?
Christ, was I wrong…
Adapted from Gilles Paris’ 2002 novel “Autobiographie d’une Courgette”; MLaaC follows nine year old Icare (Gaspard Schlatter) as he’s admitted to an orphanage by Police Officer Raymond (Michel Vuillermoz) after the death of his alcoholic mother.
Preferring to go by the nickname of Courgette, the young orphan meets seven children that, for one reason or another, have suffered in ways that no child should endure; including his new best friend, Simon (Paulin Jaccound); and his new crush, Camille (Sixtine Murat.)
Together the seven children struggle to come to terms with their past abuse and neglect, in the hope that they might one day have a happy future.
Also released in certain territories as My Life as a Zucchini, MLaaC is a film that takes duality to a whole new level. On the one hand, the bright colourful stop-motion animation brings to mind the exuberant adventures of Wallace and Gromit or ParaNorman. But it’s soon made clear that MLaaC has far more in common with the human struggles of Perks of being a Wallflower or Fault in our Stars.
Clocking in at just shy of 70 minutes, director Claude Barras (in his directorial debut) focuses on how children deal with tragic events in an ever darkening world. Through the eyes of Courgette we learn about the events that brought the children to their new home; such as one child witnessing her father’s murder of her mother; or another child heavily implied to have been sexually abused.
Because of this, I do have to wonder if children are even the audience for such a moving storyline. Though, as demonstrated by it’s PG rating, there is nothing blatantly violent or sexual; I do feel parents should hesitate before taking their very youngest to see this film.
Perhaps an apt comparison might be a film such as 12 Angry Men. At least in the sense that both films are technically suitable for children, but not necessarily ones that said children will fully understand or appreciate.
However, as dark as the film threatens to get, it never loses sight of the fact that this is a tale about healing. Through a variety of events, such as a trip to the snowy mountains, attending a superhero party, or even a ride on a ghost-train; we see Courgette and his friends come to terms with their loss and pain. Indeed it could be said that the film at it’s core is fundamentally about hope. Hope for a better life by sharing your pain with others who have suffered.
It’s even more impressive that the film manages to get across such intense emotions through stop-motion animation, especially since (let’s be honest) said animation is fairly rudimentary compared to the cutting edge of modern cinema. But perhaps this is the best testament to how hard the film-makers worked to bring this heart-breaking narrative to life.
It’s abundantly clear why MLaaC was nominated for an Oscar. With a plot and character development that could rival most adult dramas, this melancholic piece of animation is a refreshing change of pace from the soul-sucking travesty of Despicable Me 3 and The Emoji Movie.
It’s only a shame that the Oscars chose to award what’s popular rather than what is truly exceptional.