Childhood neglect and abuse are unlikely to be the topic of the next Disney animated smash. Even as Inside Out dives into the child psyche, they tend to avoid such unfriendly children’s fare. My Life As A Courgette has no such qualms. In the opening scenes, we are introduced to Icare (who prefers to be known as Courgette) leaving his alcoholic mother behind to live in an orphanage. There he and his new gang of friends, all of whom come from equally (if not worse) traumatic backgrounds, have to try and find a place in the world without the reassurance of family. It’s all presented in a delightful stop-motion style and Christ, it could have been a disaster.
Except it’s not. What it is is a heart wrenching but touching and at times laugh out loud funny look at a world that to most people is completely removed from the one they exist in. These children have been through hell, but they are all still kids. The scars are there, and some of them are suffering long-term effects, but when they’re together and having fun, they can find the joy in life.
There’s an adventure-filled plot, but it takes second billing to the characters themselves. With their oversized heads and simple features, they could have been blank slates, particularly with the simplistic strokes of their backstories. However, the skill of the animators allows them to become as alive as any human being. The small scars across Simon and Alice’s faces and the wide-eyed stare of Courgette as he sees Camille (the girl he falls for) for the first time says more than any speech could.
This film is also notable for the role that it gives to the workers at the orphanage and the police as well. In a lot of kid’s films, these authority figures instantly fall in the bad guy camp. The adults who are desperate to make the children’s lives worse. Here, they are figures of comfort. Doing everything in their power to stand up for their young charges. I’m sure there are bad police and bad child social workers in the world but the majority of them are people trying hard to do a good job and it’s refreshing to see a film depict them like that.
My Life As A Courgette is only 66 minutes long and yet it’s 66 minutes that will stay with you for a long time. It takes what could be a harrowing and upsetting story and presents it in a way that kids can enjoy and understand. If anything, they’ll relate to these characters as they try and unpuzzle adult ideas like sex a lot more than they will any singing elephant or dancing troll. With blockbuster season in full swing, this stop-motion gem could easily be swallowed by Zac Efron’s abs. However, it is worth ten of those film and is one you need to seek out.
Verdict: Hall of Fame