“There’s nobody left to love us.”
That haunting phrase, uttered by one of the young children at the orphanage which acts as the sitting for My Life as a Zucchini, which is up for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award at this year’s Oscars along with Zootopia and Moana, reveals a very bleak outlook for the kids who, for various reasons (the first question for every new kid is “Why are you here?”), have been cast aside by their families.
And while it’s true that there is a touchingly melancholic aspect to this film, which echoes the tell-it-like-it-is French/Swiss sensibilities of director of Claude Barras, whose work has been compared to the great François Truffaut, and it will cut to the heart by all reports, there is also an assurance that it’s not necessarily the end of the road for these gorgeously-animated orphans such as the protagonist Icare (French for Icarus).
As The New York Times notes in its review, the story is, thanks to its animation, “is more charming than it is grim … with its bigheaded, asymmetrical modeling-clay figures and off-kilter picture-book backdrops [allowing the film to explore] a harsh situation with gentle whimsy.”
As the review goes on to observe, the point of the film “is not horror but healing” with Zucchini aka Icare befriending a bully and possibly falling in love, all the while finally a shot at moving beyond a life hitherto defined by the loss of his mother and father to various unpalatable fates.
It’s unlikely to win an Oscar against some big Hollywood heavyweights, but it will win your heart over, granting you in a process a whole new appreciation for the healing powers of love and belonging.
My Life as a Zucchini releases in USA on 24 February with staggered worldwide release to follow.