We meet nine-year-old Icare – or ‘Courgette’ as he’d prefer to be called – holed up in his attic bedroom, hiding from his abusive, alcoholic mother. When an accident sees her fall to her death, he is taken by a kindly police officer to a foster home and introduced to a cast of children with similarly tragic paths. Adapted from Gilles Paris’ 2002 novel Autobiographie d’une Courgette, this French/Swiss stop-motion animation is gloriously lo-fi, filled with hand stitched details and distinctive character design – it’s hard to disagree when one of the other children ungenerously decides that Courgette should be called ‘Potato’ owing to the shape of his head.
It’s a film that treads a fine line between levity and seriousness – though it’s worth noting that the subject matter here is perhaps only suitable for more mature children – as it explores in the character’s brutal histories. Subjects such as murder, substance abuse, suicide and deportation are implied with delicacy, without undermining their gravity. But, despite such grim themes, My Life as a Courgette captivates as it follows the interactions within the foster home. Rudimentary discussions on sex, intimacy and a brief sojourn into espionage provide charm as they demonstrate the kindness and resilience of children in traumatic situations.