My Life as A Zucchini is an Unusually Bold Children’s Film
By Adam Cook
My Life as a Zucchini is a children’s movie unlike any other. Nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, this French-Swiss stop-motion film will surprise you with its balance between the delicacy of its storybook feel and its heavy themes. Zucchini lives at home with his alcoholic mother. In a startling opening sequence that quickly situates us in his abusive home life, we see him gather dozens of empty beer cans and starts stacking them into a tower, only to end up in a confrontation with his mom that accidentally ends up being fatal. Next, Zucchini is face to face with a sympathetic police officer who ends up taking him to the orphanage.
Here, Zucchini encounters other troubled children who have faced trauma, abuse, and unfair circumstance. Director Claude Barras does a beautiful job of subtly pointing to serious problems and reality without infringing on the film’s light and colourful tone. The result is a film that can confront kids with heavy ideas without coming on too strong. For adults, it serves as a refreshingly real story without any talking animals or musical sequences. A fellow orphan, Simon, is a bully that at first picks on Zucchini — but there are no villains in this film, and their relationship evolves in unexpected ways. All the children have scars, and the film isn’t afraid of laying them bare.
The main plot kicks in when Camille, a young girl, arrives, and immediately latches onto Zucchini as a friend. The film’s approach to portraying how children relate to one another and the fluidity of friendship and conflict is sophisticated and insightful. The animation itself is simple yet beautiful. The colour palette is rich, and with its limited settings, the filmmakers focus on making the most of the environments they developed. Heartwarming, cute, but boldly real, My Life as a Zucchini may not have the attention-grabbing theatrics of an American animated film, but what it has in its place is substantial, and the potential to move children and adults alike.
My Life as a Zucchini screens at Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St, Vancouver) from Feb 24th – Marc 19th.