My Life as a Zucchini (2017)
dir. Claude Barras
written by: Céline Sciamma, Germano Zullo, Morgan Navarro, Claude Barras
starring: Will Forte, Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Amy Sedaris
For a movie nominated for an Oscar, My Life as a Zucchini certainly was shafted as far as release date. Additionally submitted as Switzerland’s Foreign Language feature, this unusually named claymation production adapts Gilles Paris’s Autobiographie d’une Courgette as a charming step into the lives of children adapting to life in an orphanage.
Unlike many similar stories, writer Céline Sciamma (Girlhood, Tomboy), along with Germano Zullo, Morgan Navarro, and director Claude Barras, delivers children worthy entertainment, full of pranks and jokes and learnable lessons, with a very European openness lacking from much American entertainment. Carefully introducing sex and death, Icare (aka Zucchini) and his fellow children at the orphanage are able to discuss being separated from their families while enjoying the company of their alternative family. When every story of orphans focuses on reuniting with parents or the tragedy of death, these wards are not rearing to escape from a malevolent headmistress or violent teachers; it’s the relatives and guardians from whom they need to flee and plot against. The teacher and caregivers at their home are the caring guardians they dismay leaving.
Heavy clay sculptures differentiate the work from polished works like fellow nominee Kubo and the Two String while adding substantially more weight to another story of children apart from their parents. Darker material rarely fares well with children’s entertainment; American children are handed the same CGI schlock year after year. It may be wise to hand them more atypical entertainment. Show them something that can give them a glimpse of a kid just like them persevering over unfortunate circumstances to find a better family than the one he left.