On this edition of Creations of Chaos, it’s the sweet, sobering, and impressively real, My Life as a Zucchini.
Zucchini is a young boy, who is sent to live in a children’s home, after the accidental death of his abusive, alcoholic, mother.
His life seems bleak, until the arrival of a girl named Camille. Camille is deeply understanding, and has a way of bringing out the best in the group of damaged, quirky, children. When Camille is destined for a new, hellish, existence, the kids must work together to save their friend.
I’ve worked in the field of Social Work since before I graduated from college. During undergraduate school, I worked in a home for adolescent girls. After, I spent eleven years as a case manager for children living in residential placement. I understood this film, too well.
I thought My Life as a Zucchini did a beautiful job portraying the children. The material worked hard to not make any of the characters an over the top cliché of an emotionally traumatized child.
The kids aren’t perfect. There are many ups and down during the film. This was very true to life. I remember days when my kids were positive, hopeful, and got along. I also remember days that involved lots of tears, cursing and name calling, and brutal fights. I even recall a night that involved a chase with a butcher knife. My Life as a Zucchini struck a great balance between being heartbreaking and heartwarming.
In the 80s there was a rash of books, films, and made for tv movies, that involved orphans and abused children. I ate them up. There was nothing I loved more as a kid, than a good orphan story.
The villains in these books and films were often caretakers, social workers, police officers, and judges. I think that was one of my motivations for becoming a social worker, I was going to buck the trend and be a nice social worker.
My Life as a Zucchini does a marvelous job portraying the staff at the children’s home as genuinely caring adults, who were invested in the lives of the children. They were the anti-Miss Hannigan. It was delightful to see, and inspiring.
Another adult character is the police officer. The police officer takes Zucchini’s statement and drops him off at the children’s home. The officer takes a special interest in Zucchini, and throughout the film, I expected the officer to eventually abandon the boy. I figured this would be another wound added to Zucchini’s scars. I was pleasantly surprised when the opposite occurred.
Full disclosure, one of my main motivations for wanting to see My Life as a Zucchini, was that the main character looked like the humans in the game, Animal Crossing.
The artistic choices are interesting, particularly the design of the characters. It’s probably due to my Coraline obsession, that I loved Zucchini’s blue hair.
The rings around the characters eyes, or lack thereof, seems to indicate their individual degree of weariness.
The children’s home is decked out with lots of kid friendly furniture and bright, bold, colors, yet the rooms are often shadowy, with patches of light here and there. The interior of the home, appears to express the interior of, and the healing that is taking place, in the children.
There is a scene where Zucchini and Camille go outside in the snow, at night. It’s an artistically beautiful scene, as the characters lay in quiet snow, gazing up at a pitch-black sky, filled with a bright moon, stars, and silvery white clouds. In the moment, they are able to use their words to release some of the trauma kept locked inside. It’s emotionally touching, and it made me want to lay down and gaze up at the sky the next time it snows.
With so much emotional heft, it would have been easy to over-complicate My Life as a Zucchini. The story is simple, the dialogue is not wordy, and like a Studio Ghibli film, it’s filled with many deliberate, quiet, moments.
The film is rated PG-13, for subject matter and talk about sex, so it isn’t for little kids. It is a must see for everyone who is age appropriate.
Whether or not you have suffered abuse and/or trauma, I think everyone can relate to My Life as a Zucchini. It’s serious and sobering, with brilliant sparkles of joy thrown in, and isn’t that pretty much life?