Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: The Hedgehog (Le Hérisson)

It must be tough being a hedgehog. I’m sure that, somewhere beneath the prickles is a nice cuddly creature. But getting past those prickles can be difficult. Surely the hedgehog must get frustrated at everyone assuming that what is on the outside is the real creature.

In the same way hedgehogs are primarily related to according to their prickles, so too we tend to relate to other people by what we see on the surface. How often, though, do we get to know someone and realise that we have misjudged them. This human reality is at the heart of Mona Achache’s absolutely delightful film Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog).

Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) is a very bright 11-year old girl living in an apartment block with her rich family. She is older than her years and interested in art and philosophy. Her mother is neurotic and her father is a busy politician and her sister is completely self-absorbed. Palomo decides she is going to kill herself on her 12th birthday. But before she does, she decides to create a video journal of her boring life in the apartment block including the eccentric residents in the building. As she does, she gets to know a number of characters who begin to make her wonder whether she will go ahead with her plan to suicide. She develops friendships with two people in particular — the concierge who is the “hedgehog” of the story’s title; and a  widowed Japanese man.

An 11-year-old contemplating suicide may seem to be a rather depressing premise for a story. But The Hedgehog strikes a superb balance between dark and light to produce a superb comedy/drama about life, death, love, friendship, family, and the beauty of those who, initially, come across as remote and “prickly”.

Guillermic is absolutely brilliant in her role as Paloma and her narration as she makes her video journal are incisive, trenchant, and witty. The rest of the cast support her with wonderfully rich and understated performances.

The Hedgehog is moviemaking at its best — entertaining, meaningful, sophisticated, simple, and a true delight to watch. Don’t miss it!



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