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DVD/Blu-ray: My Life as a Courgette | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: My Life as a Courgette

DVD/Blu-ray: My Life as a Courgette

Heartbreaking, funny Swiss stop-motion animation

Ken Loach for kids - 'My Life as a Courgette'

Describe the plot of My Life as a Courgette to someone who’s not been lucky enough to see it and they'll find it hard to understand how a film with such a bleak premise can be so funny and emotionally involving. Swiss director Claude Barras’s magical little animation is an extraordinary thing, and a miracle of concise, clear storytelling.

Based on a French children's novel, it tells the story of nine-year old Icare. Nicknamed "Courgette", he’s living in a children's home after inadvertently causing the death of his alcoholic mother. The brutal details of why he's sent there aren't dodged by Barras, and the film’s main strength is its willingness to confront some very dark issues; understandably Courgette has been described by Barras as "Ken Loach for kids". Courgette’s co-residents (pictured below) mostly tick the expected boxes, from the bully with a hidden heart of gold to the gormless nose-picker, but despite the heavily stylised look of Barras’s stop-motion puppets, they never seem less than flesh and blood.

The brief audition reel, animated after the event, is terrific

Courgette slowly finds his feet and is lucky enough to encounter a set of sympathetic adults, most importantly a warm-hearted police officer charged at the outset with escorting him to his new home. Matters become more complicated with the arrival of new resident Camille, whose reluctance to live with her brutish aunt prompts an ingenious rescue attempt. The optimistic conclusion strikes a slightly false note, but we're not allowed to forget those left behind; it's heartbreaking to hear the initially thuggish Simon lament the fact that no one wants to adopt older children like himself. A brief sequence showing him standing, disconsolate, before walking back into the hostel gates near the film’s close is a heartbreaker: he deserves his own sequel.

Amidst the sadness are some wonderfully funny scenes, and the children's description of the sexual act should be made compulsory viewing in primary schools. The exchange between little Ahmed and a little girl whose red ski goggles he covets is wonderfully judged, a reminder that prejudice and ignorance are learned, not innate. Sophie Hunger’s soundtrack is delectable, and the film’s uncluttered, colourful visuals are a joy to behold. It lasts little more than an hour – how many films pack so much into so little?

My Life as a CourgetteThis home-entertainment release includes both original French and dubbed English versions, the latter’s star turn being Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman as Raymond the policeman. Generous extras include an enthusiastic introduction by Aardman Studios’ Peter Lord, plus an enjoyable "making of" documentary. And how neat that the film’s realistic sound was realised by having the voice actors physically act out scenes. The brief audition reel, animated after the event, is terrific. One of the year’s best releases.

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