Written by Menna Rateb
Scrolling down the pages of one of the well-known websites for watching online movies, my husband and I noticed a poster for what we thought was an animated movie. We stopped scrolling and stared for a moment at the blue haired boy centered in the middle of the poster and the word “zucchini” written in a noticeably larger font than the rest of the movie title. It took us one more moment to decide that we should know what the movie behind this odd poster is.
We found a version of the french film with Arabic subtitles, and it didn’t take us long to realize that the movie we confused for a small-budget children’s film, was in fact an overwhelming deeply hearted piece of art that is not actually made for kids to watch.
“My life as a zucchini” or I may call it by its French name “Ma vie de Courgette” tells the story of a young blue haired boy whose mom – for no specific reason- nicknames him as Courgette, which is the French word for “zucchini”.
Courgette struggles during his mom’s life being an alcoholic reckless mother, as well as after her tragic death- of which I’m not intending to talk for the sole purpose of not spoiling it.
He is consequently sent to a foster home in the countryside where he gets to know other kids who have been through similar circumstances with their families.
The stories of these kids, how they deal with each other, how each one of them deals on the inside with his/her own struggle & how they see the world are incredibly delivered to the audience in a realistic non-exaggerated way. A way that truly touches your soul. For instance when we get to meet little Simon – one of the kids at the foster home- we mistake him for a bully, but quickly we realize that it’s just his way to channel his anger, we almost tear up for him when he spells his heart out to Courgette saying “There’s nobody left to love us”.
But what’s truly genius about this movie is that in spite of the fact that it takes us through a deeply painful human experience, its makers manage to show us how in the middle of those kids’ big pain, they can still laugh and enjoy the little things in their little lives. They also get us to realize those tiny details that we might pass by daily taking for granted and never showing appropriate gratitude for, like a hug from a mother, a family dinner or a father flying his son a kite. And through it all, we never feel bored or agonizingly sad, the filmmakers cleverly switch between sadness and happiness, sorrow and true beauty. We get to laugh out loud and tear up a bit all at the same time.
What adds more charm to this whole experience is choosing to deliver it as a stop motion picture not as a normal animated movie. It’s very easy to fall in love with those little kids with their enormous heads that don’t match their little bodies at all. The technique behind this movie is a whole other story that would wow you if you take a few seconds to think about.
This movie truly deserves the recognition it’s getting. It has indeed received nominations at the Cannes film festival, the golden globe awards, won at the European film awards, and most recently it received one last nomination at the Academy awards – competing against Moana and Zootopia, aka the typical American animated movies.
At the end, the movie leaves us with an energy to appreciate our lives more and to pay attention to those less fortunate way more. And of course it leaves us with an amazing movie experience.
What do you think?
Would you give little zucchini a shot and watch his story too? Do you often watch foreign non-English movies? If yes, which would you recommend to others? Please tell us what you think in the comments…