The Hedgehog (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner01/09/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is an emotionally engaging and quietly charming French drama with a terrific central performance from Josiane Balasko.

What's it all about?
Directed by Mona Achache, The Hedgehog is based on the best-selling French novel by Muriel Barbery and stars Garance Le Guillermic as Paloma, a depressed 11 year old who has decided to kill herself on her 12th birthday (in 165 days time) and is making a film in the meantime in order to show how meaningless and absurd her life is. While training her camera on the other people in her Parisian apartment building, Paloma notices her dowdy widow concierge Renee (Josiane Balasko) for the first time and, sensing a kindred spirit, gradually strikes up a friendship with her.

At the same time, Renee's life takes an unexpected turn when she meets new tenant Kakuro Ozu (Igawa Togo), an elderly Japanese man (also widowed), who takes an immediate interest in her, thanks to a mutual interest in Tolstoy. However, despite positive signs from Kakuro, Renee's panic-stricken insecurities threaten to scupper their relationship before it can even begin.

The Good
Josiane Balasko is terrific as Renee (the hedgehog of the film's title, thanks to a line in the script where Paloma compares her to “that falsely lethargic, staunchly private and terribly elegant creature”) and her gradual ugly duckling style transformation is genuinely heart-warming, largely thanks to the winning deployment of the flicker of a smile that occasionally flashes across her otherwise stern-looking face. She also has charming chemistry with Igawa Togo and their burgeoning relationship is both believable and emotionally involving.

There's also strong support from Le Guillermic, who manages to keep Paloma likeable despite her suicidal pretentiousness, while Sarah Le Picard and Anne Brochet provide colourful turns as, respectively, Paloma's self-obsessed sister and their head-in-the-clouds mother.

The Great
Achache maintains a strong sense of place throughout, with Renee and Paloma's apartment building feeling very much like its own little world; consequently, Renee's fear of a relationship seems closely tied to the idea of leaving her surroundings, while Paloma's inability to see the world beyond their building is tied in to her own depression.

On top of that, there's a typically great score by Gabriel Yared and some extremely charming, subtly effective animated sequences that illustrate how Paloma sees Renee and Kakuro.

Worth seeing?
The Hedgehog is an enjoyable, warm-hearted and strongly emotional French drama thanks to a strong script, assured direction and a terrific central performance from Josiane Balasko. Highly recommended.

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The Hedgehog (12A)
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Content updated: 12/12/2017 02:29

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