The Hedgehog – Magnificent French Gem

Le hérisson a.k.a. The Hedgehog (2009)
Director: Mona Achache
Cast: Garance Le Guillermic, Josiane Balasko, Togo Igawa
Writers: Mona Achache and Muriel Barbery
Language: French

The Hedgehog is not a movie as much as a beautiful painting that you can gaze at endlessly.

Tired of waiting for the Hedgehog DVD on Netflix (‘very long wait’), I rented this movie from Amazon Instant for $2.99 and streamed it to the TV via the Roku box.

The movie is based on the novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

The Hedgehog centers around three unusual characters, Paloma, Renee and Kakuro Ozu, all living in an expensive Paris apartment complex.

The three couldn’t be more dissimilar.

* Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) is a precocious 11-year-old living with her parents and older sister in a Paris apartment. Her father is a workaholic, mother a pill-popping woman who spends more time talking to her plants than with Paloma and an elder sister completely absorbed in herself.

Vexed with her life,  young, sensitive Paloma promises to kill herself on her 12th birthday. But she keeps herself busy until the promised date with a movie camera and her drawings.

* In her fifties, Renee is the prickly, dowdy concierge or ‘super’ of the small apartment block.

In Paloma’s words, Renee is like a hedgehog, rough on the outside but elegant and refined inside. That indeed Renee is with her vast collection of books.

* Kakuro Ozu is a wealthy Japanese widower who’s recently moved into a vacant apartment in the complex.

Beautiful Film

The Hedgehog is a bewitching work of art in many senses.

There’s no story in the conventional sense.

Instead, the movie draws on the reflections of Paloma and Renee and on the interaction of the three characters with each other to build its magical scaffolding.

And on how the connection of the three characters changes each one’s life.

It’s serious.

It’s funny, particularly of the world as seen through Paloma’s worldly eyes and mordant tongue or Renee’s forbidding exterior.

It’s an interesting reflection on life from the perspective of three different people living in close proximity.

And it has a remarkable twist that knocks you out in the final moments.

By the way, 99% of the movie is set within the small apartment complex.

Sublime Acting

Garance Le Guillermic, Josiane Balasko and Togo Igawa swept me away with the sheer mastery of their performances.

Since I’ve always believed that it’s the director’s responsibility to extract top performances from the actors, I shall give full credit here to Mona Achache.

It’s impossible to believe that The Hedgehog was Mona’s first feature film. enthusiastically recommends The Hedgehog to all lovers of good cinema.

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