A while back I received an email asking me to review a foreign film. I’m still flattered I was seeked out for this review. The review in question is about the French film, The Hedgehog. The film is based off of the New York Times bestseller entitled “The Elegance of the Hedgehog“ by Muriel Barbery. Like most other New York Times bestsellers the film has recently be adapted for audiences, but this time in French. Don’t worry, if this is something you are interested in as there are subtitles! And subtitles are never a bad thing. Don’t let them intimidate you or deter you away from viewing this film.
After watching the trailer, I was intrigued, but after viewing the the entire film I already have the urge to watch it again. There are very few foreign films that have the ability to grab me and make me realize this is one I’ll have to own and want to watch over and over again, but The Hedgehog is one of those films and why you should take the time to view the feature.
First off, while the basic synopsis of The Hedgehog is one that seems rather depressing at first, I feel it is safe to say that while one will at least be misty eyed the film has a very uplifting message. The film is also not one would expect by merely reading the premise. In short, the story is about a young girl by the name of Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) who is determined to commit suicide on her upcoming twelfth birthday. Upon finding her father’s old camcorder, she begins to chronicle all the hypocrisy she observes in her life that takes place by adults. As she does so she begins to learn about life through the building’s concierge (French Twist’s Josiane Balasko). As she begins to discover the nuances that lie underneath the exterior to Renée, Palmoa’s own coming of age slowly becomes far less pessimistic. In many ways this is due to the fact that Mr. Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa) moves into the building and slowly begins to change everyone’s outlook on life.
Acting wise, the film is brilliant. Guillermic’s performance is absolutely outstanding. For such a young age, I am looking forward to seeing where her talents will take her in the future. I am also intrigued enough to possibly go ahead and start viewing the few other films within her filmography. I was so enamored by her onscreen presence. There are very few times that one can sit back and say, “That kid will be around for a long time,” but Guillermic makes one say that with pure confidence in this film.
She is not the only with an amazing performance within the film. Balasko’s role is beautifully acted. She is such an insecure woman at the beginning of the film and blossoms into one who realizes that in life one should reach for what he or she wants. There are so many lessons one can learn from her character and part of that is because of Mr. Ozu. Igawa is the perfect balance for everyone else within the film. He provides a point of view that is important for people to realize and that is everyone in the world has self worth.
Everyone is important. There is not a single job out there that makes one less of a person at the end of the day and this is a message that would make a better place if more people could realize such.
Before concluding, the last bit I need to talk about is how visually striking the film happens to be. Every single scene is absolutely gorgeous. Then there is the added artwork and talent that Paloma brings to the film as well. I love that she is almost always drawing something. She is drawing everywhere and anywhere deemed acceptable and concentrating on the subjects she has taken the time to study. In many ways that is what art is all about, study after study in order to get the best from one’s subject. While some of her artwork would be considered a bit more abstract, even abstract images come from something deep seated in one’s mind in order to produce such images in the first place.
In addition, another reason the film is so visually gorgeous is the fact the director goes back and forth between a home video feel and a more polished look. The only time the home film look presents itself is when Paloma is filming someone in her life. To me this provides and extra oomph to the film that it would not otherwise have. In many ways this also creates a deeper point of view for Paloma. There is also something amazing to know that the audiences main point of view truly comes from an eleven year old. This is of course not the first time that has been done, but The Hedgehog is one of the times this is extremely well done.
If you are one who enjoys foreign cinema The Hedgehog is a great film to explore sometimes in your near future. At the end of the day different is good sometimes. This is not to say there is anything wrong with all the blockbusters of the world, but sometimes we need a film that reminds of why cinema is amazing. Plus any film that reminds the world why it is good still good is a movie worth spending money on and taking a chance on too.