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Beneath the pastel splendiferousness and beguiling aesthetics of this Swiss-French coproduction nominated for an Academy Award Best Animated Feature is unsuspectedly a somber exposition of the harsh actuality of emotional neglect and abandonment of children.
This little gem flew under the radar for many people, but it's the most solid coming-of-age that's come out in a while. The stop motion animation lends an intimacy to each scene and a closeness to the hardships and tenderness on display that is hard to capture even in live action. Its melancholy story is endearing in all the right ways, partly because it deals with a younger age group than most other films of its ilk and partly because it simultaneously doesn't shy away from either how grim life can really be or how heroic the mundane actions of good people can be.
Closest comparison: It's like Stand By Me by way of Wallace and Grommit.
Setting: Coming of Age
Plot: Coming of Age
I loved it! We get to see through children's eyes and it's something that is hard to see all the time. It was such a great movie both funny and sad. I loved it! 10/10 recommend
A cute and surprisingly dark Claymation that digs deep within problems that toddlers face. The story is okay but that's a good thing because it's not supposed to be a dramatic but show a normal life of orphans who didn't have a good life with their previous parents. The comedy is fun and the characters are cute, being a Claymation, it could have had better designs and set pieces. It's a short movie too, making the innocent comedy and annoying voices not be so annoying, but a perfect length the show what we need to know. I don't know why I watched this, it just seemed interesting; after what I experienced, it was not half bad.
It's been said more than a few times that we are in a golden age of animation. These sort of claims are hard to assess when we're in the middle of the time being talked about - we lack perspective; and animation isn't a medium I pay a huge amount of attention to for the simple reason that the most talked about animated films tend not to get released very widely (or at all) in South Africa).
Streaming services are making it easier, though, and finally catching up with 2016's My Life As A Zucchini/Courgette (delete according to your location) was a joy. It's a short (65 minutes) Swiss stop-motion animation about an orphaned boy (who calls himself Courgette), sent to a home for foster children. The film (I watched an English language version - with an excellent voice cast - though I understand subtitled original language versions are available) tells the story of how building relationships with other orphans and adults, how they listen to each other's stories of trauma and learn to grow in trust.
It would have been easy to go in one of two directions with this story: the one being a twee, saccharine affair that would be ill-fitting the serious subject matter; the other unbearably sad. That the film is neither is remarkable. The animation provides a sense of otherness that allows us to enter into the experience of the children with our defences down; the decision to portray them with wide, expressive eyes redolent of the human impulse to project on to children the innocence we wish we still had as adults.
As a foster parent myself, I know full well the desire to fix the problems of the children in my care; and how those around me seem to think that foster children have no different problems to 'normal' children - and that somehow 'just' loving them will be enough to bring healing. This far from the truth - you can't just fix a human being, and no amount of love is going to undo trauma in the formative years of a person's life. The film knows this, and wisely portrays the other traumatised children as the best people to bear the burdens with a traumatised child. It's not that there isn't a role for parent or therapist or teacher, of course - it's simply that only a child who has been there can truly enter in to the pain of a child with these experiences.
The film is full of deeply moving little details - the child who runs outside shouting 'Mummy?' every time a car pulls up; the way children in these situations can end up feeling like pieces moved around a board they can't see the whole of; very realistically, the children here are shown as repeatedly and forcefully trying to assert their own agency.
There's a danger in the film's ending of the implication that once the children find a reconstituted family situation of some sort, that all will be well. To conclude that would not be in keeping with what had gone before; but the implication could have been more clearly avoided. Otherwise this is a tender, funny, beautiful film that avoids clichï¿ 1/2 (C)d tear-jerking to tell a story that is truthful and repeated all over the world every day. As a charming and striking viewing in its own right, or as an insight in to the world of fostering children, this is well worth seeking out.
My day got better in an hour. This movie is very beautiful, and it managed to get me a tear. It also shows the good parts of life and the bad parts... not everything is pink. As I have said, stop-motion is my favorite method of creating a movie and I will not change my mind.
To be quite honest with you, not much happens within this film most of it is just a bunch of children doing randomly fun things(i.e we see the two mains on this interactive rollercoaster, playing in the snow, dance party(seizure warning), and in a fare). Another big part of the film makes characters straight out say "this sad story happened to me. In fact, Zucchini straight out asks Simon, "hey what's Camilia's deal? why is she here?"(26:27-27:12) not too long after Simon went over everyone else's backstory(18:06-19:36.) I do enjoy the backgrounds, they are the best I've seen in a while. For instance, at the start of the film, you get a white wall filled with Zucchini's drawings in a small cramped attic(as to set-up his love for drawing and how bad his mom treats him). Really, even if you don't want to see the movie, look up the backgrounds in it, that was my favorite part of the film.
P.S the elongated arms reminded me of "Little Nightmares", it was not cute
Tender, pure, and authentic in its humor, My Life as a Zucchini has the courage to explore dark and heartbreaking substance while maintaining a sense of hope for its characters
Kinda bitter sweet ending, but it was good. Wasnï¿ 1/2(TM)t expecting much going into it.
I had found My Life as a Zucchini on Netflix, and I just sat down and watched it. I didnï¿ 1/2(TM)t anticipate how unique it would be in its animation and characters. The movie truly had a great presentation. I really felt the tone of the movie, and I was never bored well watching it. Itï¿ 1/2(TM)s a simple, animated, French film. It wasnï¿ 1/2(TM)t clear what the goal of the movie was, but I definitely got something out of it.
The plot is simplistic and nothing to extravagant. I like Marvel movies. I liked the book Ready Player One. But at the end of the day, I care about presentation more than action. Itï¿ 1/2(TM)s why blockbusters donï¿ 1/2(TM)t sit right with me. But My Life as a Zucchini has an easy-to-follow plot, and it works with the tone of the movie. Itï¿ 1/2(TM)s challenging, and though the plot is only average, it sets everything up so that the characters shine.
The protagonist is a 9-year-old boy named Icare, but his nickname is Zucchini. His mother is an abusive alcoholic, and one day she is about to beat him, but he accidentally knocks her down the stairs, killing her. Zucchini is sent to an orphanage, and as one might expect, Matilda shenanigans occur. Zucchini has a cop that visits him every week or two, and the orphanage owners are caring. All the kids have tragic backstories. But Zucchini feels shy. One kid, presented as a bully at first, is named Simon. He picks on Zucchini, trying to get him to open up. Eventually, Simon is revealed to be much more complex, and it seems all the kids get along.
One day, another kid comes, and Zucchini develops a crush on her. The girl, Camille makes everybody at the orphanage happier, even getting the archetypal emo kid to be more social. But Camille has an abusive aunt that she lives with over the weekends. The aunt wants to take full custody of her, because she pays less taxes if she is takes Camille in. One weekend Camille goes over to stay with her aunt, and Simon gives her a recording device. Her tells her to record her aunt saying something incriminating. When the judge decides whether or not Camille will stay with her aunt, Camille plays a recording that gives the judge reason not to let the aunt take custody.
The movie ends with the cop that visits Zucchini every week adopting Zucchini and Camille. Itï¿ 1/2(TM)s very abrupt, and the plot is probably the worst thing about the movie. The main deterrent for me was how the plot goes too fast. I was never bored during the movie, but when the movie ended I was also confused. It didnï¿ 1/2(TM)t seem like much was resolved because the pacing was off. Half of the movie was just the first act, and the main conflict, the abusive aunt, only shows up 37 minutes into the movie, and is resolved 15 minutes later. The resolution takes about 7 minutes, and the movie ultimately suffers from this lack of pacing.
However, the plot and pacing are the only bad things about this movie. The best thing is the characters. Simon is the most complex, and it is interesting to see the affect Camille had on the orphanage as a whole. Zucchini is a good character as well, starting as an outsider in the group of kids, but soon being absorbed into the culture of the orphanage. Simon is the character I focused most on while watching the movie. His backstory is that his parents did drugs, and were caught by the police. At first he teases Zucchini, saying he looks more like a potato than a zucchini. But he becomes Zucchiniï¿ 1/2(TM)s friend, and Zucchini finds that the orphanage is a tight-knit group of friends. But Simon is hard to read. He tries to be supportive of his friends, and heï¿ 1/2(TM)s oddly mature for his age. But he often suppresses his own emotions so his friends can be happy. At the end of the movie, when the cop offers to adopt Zucchini and Camille, he is angry about it, but he eventually comes around and tells them that they should take the opportunity, and this moment shows his stance as a friend. He sort of represents the entire orphanage, being each otherï¿ 1/2(TM)s friends, because who needs friends more than a bunch of orphans in the middle of nowhere?
Another interesting feature of My Life as a Zucchini was the animation. The movie is clay stop motion, which is impressive in itself. In addition, the shadows could not look more realistic. But what really stood out was the angles and shots. No scene is to close up, and there are plenty of creative angles. For instance, at 3 minutes and 29 seconds into the movie, there is a shot that really set the tone for the movie well, with Zucchini walking away from the room his sad, lonely mother was in, out of solitude, and up the stairs, rising to his aspiration. In addition to the cinematography and layout, the lighting is really something, especially considering everything is made of clay.
The entire film is a true beauty, and the only thing it could have benefitted from is if the plot were better paced. The movie is a great character study. I was interested in all the characters, from the caring orphanage caretakers to the fun-loving and charismatic Camille. If I were to rate it out of 10 I would give it a 6. The movie is good overall, but the plot is all over the place, which would make it hard to sit through a second time. Even so, itï¿ 1/2(TM)s free on Netflix, and worth a watch.