My Life as a Zucchini is an absolutely astonishing piece of cinematic storytelling. It’s such a deep, hard-hitting, bittersweet tale about friendship and finding your place in the world, that’s as humorous and positive, as it is sad and downbeat. It’s an hour-long rollercoaster of emotions so expertly crafted that it’s a ride worth taking again and again.
My Life as a Zucchini is a Swiss and French stop-motion adult animated dramedy, originally released in French, but then dubbed over for an English release as well. I haven’t watched the film in French yet, however. I will say that the dubbing done is impossible to notice, as the voice cast does such a great job translating the words, but losing none of the emotional impact of what’s happening.
The film follows Icare (voiced by Erick Abbate), or Zucchini which he prefers to be called, as he’s sent to a foster home after the loss of his alcoholic mother. There he finds himself joining a group of five other kids his age who also have tragic tales of loss and abandonment that have lead them all to this place.
Not long after settling in another new arrival shows up named Camille (voiced by Ness Krell), who Zucchini instantly falls in love with. The film is told from a children’s point of view, with topics of death, sex, kissing and babies being brought up and explained in a way that most nine year olds would attempt to explain these things to their friends. It’s not gratuitous, but there’s an explicit innocence in its explanations of such things that parents may find it shocking if they’re expecting a stop motion film as light-hearted as The Nightmare Before Christmas, or the likes.
In actuality, it’s quite funny to hear how the children describe what they think happens when people are in love, and remember back to when I was young and had the same sort of uneducated, pieced together knowledge of such things as well. It’s good for parents to know that just because the characters are cute and animated, that the topics and themes touched upon throughout the film are likely best suited for children in the same age range as those in the movie.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with anything mentioned, but My Life as a Zucchini deals with some tough topics as well, such as murder-suicide, addiction, and being left alone as a child by those who were supposed to guide you through life. Some of these topics are only touched upon briefly, sometimes even in just one line of dialogue before moving on, but some parents may want to watch it so they know what’s coming, or at least with their children the first time through.
Don’t let the darker topics mentioned above deter you from watching it though, as this is some of the purest, kindest, heartfelt storytelling in recent years. While the film’s more melancholy first half may be a lot for some to withstand, amongst the bleaker themes are also joyous ones like love, friendship, learning to trust new people, and opening yourself up to new things even after you’ve been knocked down so hard before.
It’s truly hard to put into words how well-crafted the film is, as director Claude Barras has worked incredibly hard alongside his many animators to bring the script by the talented Celine Schiamma (which is based off the novel by Gilles Paris) to life, and to do so in the best way possible. The characters have a very unique look to them, yet they still come across as 100% human as you watch the film unfold. In the special features he mentions that the eyes were given a shine, as the soul of a person can be seen through the eyes, and maybe that’s what it is. As non-human as these characters may actually look, I never saw them as anything but, which is a credit to the animators and artists that worked painstaking hours to make sure every frame was perfect.
Each of the five (eventually six once Camille arrives) children at the foster home have their own tragic story of what landed them there, but instead of dragging things out, it’s all explained rather quickly by the oldest boy at the home, named Simon (voiced by Romy Beckman). It’s sad to hear the very true-to-life circumstances that brought the children to this place; however, it’s explained by Simon so naturally, that while it emotionally resonates, we’re not brought down to a depressive state when hearing it.
And that’s one of the main reasons why My Life as a Zucchini is such a masterful film, as it handles such incredibly heavy topics in such a careful, almost uplifting way. It helps find the silver-linings in the many clouds that brought these children together, and above all else it gives a sense of hope and joy, that even amongst all the bad, there’s lots of good to be found, so long as you open yourself up to let it, and others, in.
There are a number of more recognizable actors that also lend their voices to the movie. First up is Nick Offerman, who voices Raymond, the police officer who first brings Zucchini to the home, and strikes up a friendship with the young boy as well as Zucchini tries to get adjusted to his new life. Will Forte and Ellen Page voice Mr. Paul and Rosy, the two teachers at the foster home, and Amy Sedaris voices Camilla’s not so nice Aunt Ida.
My Life as a Zucchini caught me completely off-guard in the best way possible. Not many animated films deal with the topics that Zucchini does, let alone in such a magical way that has the viewer feeling heartache one moment, and utter joy and happiness the next. My Life as a Zucchini pulls no punches when telling the story it wants to tell, and that’s what makes it such a cinematic gem.
The film looks and sounds fantastic. It’s an absolutely beautiful stop motion film, with dark and bleak lighting effects when needed, and bright and vibrant colours when needed also. Everything is handled with such care, and this transfer is no different. The wonderful musical score that accompanies the story is just as important at times as the words being spoken. Just wonderful work all around by everyone involved.
The special features are as follows:
The Making of My Life as a Zucchini – This feature is just under 20 minutes in length, and is all in French with English subtitles. It’s a must-see feature for fans of the film, as you get to learn why director Claude Barras wanted to make the film, the original source material, the creation and look of the characters, how the film was voiced in French (which is really awesome to see, as all the actors basically acted out the film instead of just sitting in a sound booth), as well as the creation of the sets, how things were animated…it’s just all here. Don’t miss this bonus feature.
Short Film: The Genie in a Tin of Ravioli – This is a short stop-motion film by Barras that’s just under eight minutes in length. It’s a fun quick watch that’s in French with English subtitles.
There’s also the U.S. trailer for My Life as a Zucchini as well as other films from GKids.
Universal presents My Life as a Zucchini. Directed By: Claude Barras. Written by: Celine Sciamma. Based on the Novel by: Gilles Paris. Featuring the Voices of: Nick Offerman, Will Forte, Ellen Page, Amy Sedaris, Erick Abbate, Romy Beckman, Ness Krell, Clara Young, and Finn Robbins. Running time: 66 Minutes. Rating: PG. Released on Blu-ray: May 23, 2017.
Tags: amy sedaris, Celine Sciamma, Claude Barras, ellen page, Ma Vie de Courgette, My Life as a Zucchini, Nick Offerman, Will Forte