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My Life As A Courgette (2016) (U)

PG / 66mins / Switzerland / Directed by Claude Barras

Here is a little miracle of gentleness, tenderness and intense, traditional Frenchness. It was an Oscar nominee for best animated feature in 2016, losing out, probably unjustly, to Zootopia. The screenwriter Céline Sciamma has adapted the 2002 novel Autobiography of a Courgette by Gilles Paris for this beguiling stop-motion animation; director Claude Barras makes his feature debut.

The characters’ faces are big, almost like Charles M Schulz figures, and very expressive and subtle. It is the story of a little boy fond of kites (voiced by Gaspard Schlatter) who is interestingly named Icare but goes by his nickname: Courgette. A terrible accident means he is taken to a home in the country for orphaned kids, where everyone has a grim, secret story and the children’s growing awareness that no one really wants them manifests itself in all sorts of tough behaviour. But after a rough start, Courgette makes friends with Simon (Paulin Jaccoud) and forms a tendresse for Camille (Sixtine Murat). Meanwhile, the lonely, unhappy cop who dealt with Courgette’s case, Raymond (Michel Vuillermoz), has taken a kindly interest in his continued welfare.

It is a lovely little film, coming in at a novella-size 66 minutes. I loved the home’s emotional wallchart, the Météo des Enfants, showing their mood swings from sunny to cloudy.

Peter Bradshaw ***** - The Guardian