I usually don’t give animation films the same regard as the regular kind, partly because I am a feeling person, and I need to look into the character’s eyes to their soul to feel the exact timbre of that tinge of sadness/wistfulness, or that flicker of excitement dancing in his iris. Therefore, animation has always resided in the cutesy realm, not to be taken too seriously or used to detail sombre subject matter. My Life as a Courgette, breaks the rules by employing cutesy characters to depict complex subject matter like family dysfunction and abandonment of children. However so, with its feel-good happy ending, watching this film is a nice way to end off a wintery year, especially in the days leading up to Christmas.
Little Courgette gets sent to an orphanage by a police officer following the death of his parents. He gets holed up with a bunch of other kids who get sent there because of dysfunctional families. There, he meets a special girl, Camille, and a magical bond is forged between the two. Camille’s aunt, a witch in her own words, decides to take her back forcefully, as France provides child support funds for her to raise Camille up. The kids in the orphanage devise an elaborate plan to thwart the wicked aunt’s plans to take Camille away, and Courgette and Camille eventually return to each other’s company again. To sum up the feel-good factor, the police officer, whose own son had abandoned him, decided to take in Courgette and Camille as his own. The film ends off with the police officer marking Courgette’s and Camille’s height on a wall, with their names tagged, to commemorate the day they moved into their new home, and found true family.
The animated effects are pretty cute; the characters have huge billiard-ball-lookalike eyes, oversized heads, and speak French in hushed tones. There are cute interpretations of innuendo jokes made by the kids, a reflection of their experimental phase, with descriptions of sex like ‘his willy exploded into flames’, ‘she starts sweating a lot and goes oui, oui, oui, oui , and stops after a while’. I thought the snowball fights and disco parties during a vacation planned for the kids were heart-warming bonding times.
While this film may not reflect the actual state of the French welfare/ foster care system, it does reveal a graciousness of the French society toward children from marginalised or dysfunctional families. Kids in orphanages have access to decent education, meals, and even time-out such as vacation. Elitism exists across societal strata, and the more fortunate naturally have a better headstart in life. However, it would be a shame to dismiss someone’s potential, because they were not given the chance/born into less favourable circumstances. It seems like Western societies have that innate moral stand to ‘leave no child behind’, which impacts societal cohesion in the long term, for a happier well-integrated society that values civil rights.