“No one is coming to your rescue!” an acquaintance said to me once in a strident tone. This, after a personal lament over a situation that I believed held me under a spell. Needless to say, over time that acquaintance and I have uhm … ahem … lost touch, but if we still were in contact, I would gift her with Claude Barras’s film My Life as a Zucchini as soon as it was available on DVD or to stream. I’d scribble a note: Dear Acquaintance, View & Weep! There are those who do come to our rescue!”
Based on the young adult novel by Gilles Paris, My Life as a Zucchini is filmed in stop-motion animation. It is a darling of a film, and Barris breathes life into the poignant stories of round-headed owl-eyed orphaned children living in a group home.
The main character 9-year-old Icare voiced by Erick Abbate, is called Zucchini by his mother. She deals with the abandonment of Zucchini’s father by drinking beer and watching television day in and day out. Zucchini busies himself in the attic building towers with his mother’s beer cans. One day in a drunken rage, his mother climbs the stairs to give the boy the spanking of his life after she hears noises. Then. The accident. Raymond, voiced by Nick Offerman, is a compassionate policeman who processes Icare into the foster care system.
Zucchini’s answers to Raymond’s questions uncover a boy who, in spite of his circumstances, still finds a kernel of something happy. Even though her broken family has depressed his mother, Icare loves her mashed potatoes. Sometimes, he reveals, they even have fun.
Puppeteer Gregory Beaussart and his crew have fashioned a most adorable ensemble of kids, and Barras allows them to grieve, smile & laugh, question, and even fall in love.
We all have heard horror stories about the foster care system but My Life as a Zucchini makes plain that in spite of personal trauma and no matter the chaos, some adults keep their promises; some adults really care; some friends keep watch over us; and, if we find ourselves dangling over the pit of despair, some friends will even come to our rescue.
My Life as a Zucchini plays through March 30th at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.
Also playing through April 6 at the Ross is A Sense of an Ending, Ruh-tesch Batra’s film about reconnecting with a lost love.