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THE HEDGEHOG

Director: MONA ACHACHE

100 minutes| France-Italy| 2009| Subtitled| Colour| D-Cinema


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That old chestnut the French coming-of-age story gets a chic Parisian makeover in this deft, engaging screen version of Muriel Barbery’s surprise bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It centres on Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic), a sensitive and intelligent 11-year-old, who looks round the family’s swish apartment at her neurotic mother, disengaged politico father and snippy elder sister and then decides she’s going to kill herself on her 12th birthday. Unlikely as it sounds, first-time writer-director Mona Achache’s film allows us to understand its protagonist’s distinctive point of view. As the days pass however, she finds herself involved in the lives of the stern concierge (Josiane Balasko, a national treasure) and the Japanese neighbour (Togo Igawa), whose unlikely friendship may yet cause mademoiselle to reconsider her misanthropy. Firm in its perceptive assessment of everyday prejudices, this is a witty, reflective and ultimately life-affirming fable, marked by Miss Le Guillermic’s terrific wise-child turn and a truly melting score from Gabriel Yared. (Notes by Trevor Johnston).

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