Last year’s Anomalisa proved that the art of stop motion wasn’t just for children. It proved that the medium could be used to tell unique, sophisticated, adult stories that live action couldn’t. Now, My Life as a Courgette attempts to do the same. The film follows a young boy, referred to as ‘Courgette’, after a tragic accident that leaves him in an orphanage. We follow Courgette through his encounters with the other children and even as he tries to save one of his fellow orphans from an evil aunt.
For a film that’s being marketed primarily towards children, the story deals with a variety of heavier topics. It would be a surprise if Pixar and Dreamworks hadn’t been doing it for years, but Courgette does tackle it more head on than seen before. The film deals with many dark elements but never feels overwhelmingly bleak.
There’s something wholly unique about stop-motion as an art form. It’s more human than hand-drawn or computer generated animation, and works perfectly for the story that director Claude Barras is trying to tell. Stop-motion is real and therefore feels real; it’s got a physicality to it that no other animation really does. Yet, because it’s effectively just Play-Doh, it has an undeniable sense of vulnerability to it. The characters look like they might break at any moment which makes you want to scoop them up and protect them.
Something that felt inherently unique to the film was the way it balanced humour and sadness. The perfect example of this is in the opening moments of the film when a tragic accident occurs, making Courgette an orphan. This event shapes both the film’s story and tone as when it happens, several members of the audience laughed, and some gasped in shock. Barras has a way of balancing the humour and sadness in a way that means you’re never quite sure what his intention is, whether it was for comedy or dramatic effect. Although this sounds like a negative, it really isn’t – it challenges you to think about what you’ve just watched, rather than presenting it on a platter like a lot of movies for kids do.
The film really doesn’t have many negative elements, which probably explains it 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. However, to me the 66-minute run-time did feel somewhat short. The story is served well and there are full character arcs in those 66 minutes, but it almost felt as if it was over before it had even really started. It might be that I’m used to bloated 2-and-a-half-hour films or that I could’ve watched the characters for another hour, but I just left the cinema wanting more. Perhaps I’m greedy.
If you get the chance, definitely go see My Life as a Courgette and help support smaller foreign films like this one so we can get more of them.
My Life As A Courgette is now out in cinemas across the UK. Image source: Lewesdepot.org