Animated foreign films may not appeal to the masses but Ma vie de Courgette or as its English translation reads, My Life as a Courgette is 66 minutes of charming French animation. It’s based on the 2002 French novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette by Gilles Paris, which tells the story of nine-year-old Icare, or Courgette as he prefers to be called. As the only child of an alcoholic single mother, Courgette’s lonely life is far from perfect. The drunken fits of rage that follow his mother’s boozy drinking sessions are frightening enough to make your heart stop. Hers does quite literally after she passes away from a tragic accident, making Courgette an orphan. He’s taken to a children’s home where he’s initially bullied but things start to look up when he meets newcomer Camille. Through a series of ups and downs the two settle into their new home and learn to adjust to life without parents.
The film has such a rare quality in that it’s practically flawless. It’s full of bittersweet moments that are almost tear-jerking. Director Claude Barras toys with our emotions. He juxtaposes happy moments with sad ones, barely allowing us a second or two to enjoy watching the children have fun before something heart-breaking happens. He ensures the theme of adoption is always in the forefront of our minds and if it dips he’s there to quickly remind us with another sad scene. ‘She drank a lot of beer but she made good mashed potatoes’, Courgette tells a police officer after his mother’s death. It’s innocent lines like these that make this film so beautiful. Like with all good foreign films, you get so lost in this story you forget you’re reading English subtitles.
From its devastating beginning to its hopeful ending, this film is nothing short of brilliant. It’s an emotional insight into the life of an orphan and the whirlwind of emotions they experience on a daily basis. There’s a real nostalgic feel to this film; the boys’ late night conversations in the dormitory bunk beds take place under torchlight, and during the Winter, the children build snowmen higher than they can reach. Even with Courgette’s bright blue hair and orange nose, it’s so easy to forget that this visually breath-taking film is animated. The lighting is spell bounding; it casts shadows in all the right places so it feels like a live action film. The script captures that pre-pubescent-like cheekiness and innocence, particularly when the children talk amongst themselves about sex and love. Young children having these discussions way past their bedtime is just as funny as you imagine. It’s easy to see why this film was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2016’s Oscars.