‘Ma vie de Courgette’
Claude Barras, 2016,
Laika studio’s ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ showed how stop-motion animation can now be as smooth and seamless as CGI, but the joys of ‘My Life as a Courgette’ are the old-school rough edges, the tangibility of the aesthetic and movements. It’s so tactile that the ridges of a crayon line stand out like Braille and the felt of the character’s mask catches the light like and seems as textured as sugar. The backdrops and clothing are full of scope and detail but retain the charm of a kid’s homemade set. The colourscheme bears the pallet of a kid’s watercolour selection and the lighting is as dense and considered as any live action feature. In shots such as a high-angled view of a house as a train goes by just above, modern and older techniques seem to meet to revel in both contemporary smoothness and the delight of a DIY history.
With a screenplay by Céline Sciamma adapted from Gille Paris’ book, it’s a tale of simple kindness and friendship overcoming trauma which, in the name of dramatics, we perhaps don’t get enough of without lapsing into trite sentimentality. There is sentiment but it feels earned and genuine, offering the empathy of giving the kid characters respect and autonomy. It’s rooted in valid darkness as all the kids come from backgrounds that speak to real trauma, but despite the threat of the loneliness of suffering, ‘My Life as a Courgette’ pays tribute to the resilience of children and their friendships, as well as the unfussy kindness of adults always in the environment.
It’s succinct with a running time of just over an hour, written in a direct but unpatronising manner and lush with its stop-animation delights. Its mildness may be mistaken for inconsequentiality rather than strident humanitarianism, but it’s a small and considerable gem.