Food: My friend has a cozy apartment in the West Village that – dead serious – looks like the cottage that Kate Winslet lives in from the film ‘The Holiday.’ She had a couple of girls over for dinner and made a large pasta dish, made with a light cheese sauce, basil, tomatoes and shrimp and sauteed onions. It was served with a simple salad and rosé (Domaine Poli: Ile de Beauté: Niellucciu 2018). My friend who hates all wines loved this one, so I recommend.
Film: This stop-motion tale about a young boy, nine years old, who is sent to a group home after the death of his alcoholic mother, is heartwarming and tender. From the point of view of the self-named Zucchini (what his mother called him), the film starts in the lonely and cold setting of his upbringing before he is uprooted.
Zucchini, once arriving at the home for orphaned children, is initially teased and called “Potato.” There is about a half dozen kids who live there and are looked after by a kind woman. After a hazing period, the other kids reveal a softer side – specifically the lead bully, who begins to share with Zucchini how each child ended up there.
He builds friendships and continues writing to the police officer who placed him at the home, and took an interest in visiting him once in a while. Though they all yearn for the love that comes from a stable family, the orphanage is a pleasant place to live and those that live there have a sincere bond. When a pretty girl named Camille arrives, Zucchini and her quickly become close.
Strung together with uncomplicated, sincere moments, like the dance party to Grauzone’s “Eisbaer” (a popular Swiss punk song) on the group ski trip, or Camille and Zucchini making snow angels late at night, the film moves along sweetly. It focuses less on plot, and more on character development and affectionate moments, but the unique style of the animation is what visually stuns in every scene. The characters have colorful hair and large eyes and the shade of even each shadow is striking.
It was a children’s novel by Gilles Paris called Autobiographie D’Une Courgette, and adopted for the screen by Celine Sciamma, and takes place in the French speaking region of Switzerland. The English-language dub that features well-known actors like Nick Offerman, Will Forte, Amy Sedaris, and Ellen Page in relatively tiny roles. However, I think the foreign language version (with subtitles) works better tonally, with children being voiced by actual children, and the cultural nuances better captured. The children playing the characters were not professional actors and, therefore, the regional subtleties and vernacular were incorporated naturally in a way that, otherwise, has not made it’s way to television and film.
Another fun distinction is that the French name of this film is “Ma vie de Courgette” – “Courgette” meaning, of course, Zucchini. But “Courge” in the French language can also mean “Idiot” and, therefore, the word play here is that “Courgette” can double as “Little Idiot.” A vegetable and an insult!
“My Life as a Zucchini” is a sentimental film, that explores loneliness, friendship, and trauma in the life of children, showcasing complicated situations with simplicity. It is quiet, but poignant. It is heart-wrenching and heartwarming. It is incredibly well-done.