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Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Life as a Zucchini

The fifth and last of the nominees for the Best Animated Feature Oscar of last year is My Life as a Zucchini, a Swiss stop-motion film by Claude Barras. It is deceptively simple and very short (68 minutes) but has some very poignant insights into what childhood is like. Also, unless you are made of stone, you will be tearing up at the end.

Our hero is Icare, or as he likes to be called, Zucchini. He lives a kind of horrible existence with a drunken mother, who drinks beer and yells "Liars!" at the TV. When she dies, Zucchini is taken to a foster home by a kindly police detective. At first he struggles to get along, as he is bullied by a boy called Simon.

Soon enough, they are a family. Unlike most films about orphanages, it is not a Dickensian nightmare. When one girl shows up, Camille, she actually would prefer to stay in the group home then be with her aunt, who is cruel to her.

The interplay between the children is wonderful. All of them have lived some sort of trauma. One has been abused by her father, another is the child of drug addicts, another's mother was deported. They form a bond, and Zucchini and Camille share a sweet childhood crush. The police officer frequently visits Zucchini, and though you may see the end coming it can't help but move you.

This film is not for small children. It deals frankly with disturbing ideas, and even has a child's view of sex (the man's willy explodes, you see). If a small child were to see this film, they should be prepared for the sadness that goes on in the first part.

The English-language cast includes Nick Offerman as the policeman and Ellen Page as one of the teachers at the home. While My Life as a Zucchini isn't as complex as Zootopia or as sweeping as Kubo and the Two Strings, it certainly merited its nomination.

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