Paloma is a troubled 11-year-old girl. Intelligent, bored and ultimately lonely, she decides to kill herself on her 12th birthday. First though, she feels she must film the world around her to prove its banality to others. So Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic, “London mon amour”) hides in corners and points her lens at her unimportant and uninteresting family. Below her lives the janitor, Renée (Josiane Balasko, “Cliente”), who is satisfied to settle within the mold of the cranky, overlooked worker so she may live a private existence. These two lives combine to create a film that is simple but deeply satisfying.

The Hedgehog

At the Michigan
NeoClassics


“Hedgehog” focuses on the small, slow movements of everyday life. Paloma must remove her glasses to put her eye against her camera, acknowledging the irony that she must remove what allows her to see, to see. The glasses become tangled in her blonde mess of hair and she struggles in real time pulling them out. In one scene, she and Renée thoughtfully let dark chocolate sit on their tongues, melting slowly. The audience is left watching these moments organically unfold, and while it’s occasionally boring, it’s also oddly relatable.

Paloma’s camera creates a strange world for her to inhabit. She fears being caught in “a fish bowl,” so she pushes a wedge between herself and others with the lens. It’s funny though because in this separation she becomes like a goldfish in a pitcher of water, watching the world through a layer of glass. In one scene she films her sister while looking through a glass of water — it’s an example of how the camera becomes a method of self-destruction in the hands of Paloma. The true moments of intimacy are the moments when she decides to set down the camera and touch the world around her.

Outside of Paloma, there exists the true strength of the film, the relationship between Renée and the Japanese occupant in her apartment complex, Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa, “A Matter of Size”). Ozu is the sort of man who understands the importance of looking people in the eyes when you thank them, and his kindness is the force that allows the moving combinations in “Hedgehog” to form.

Quiet, refined and educated, Ozu gives this French film a distinctly Japanese spirit. He believes objects can be more than one thing. Renée may be a lot like a hedgehog, prickly on the outside but soft underneath — but this doesn’t mean she must sacrifice her elegance seeking a life of private enlightenment. One can be both an introvert and an extrovert. It is this message that the audience desperately hopes Paloma will receive before she ends her life. People can choose when to hide in a ball of spines and when to explore — they aren’t destined to be trapped in a fishbowl.

In a way, “Hedgehog” is a sort of twist on “Catcher in the Rye.” At times Paloma can be unbearably dramatic. She is young and obviously overreacts to the pointlessness of life around her. Thankfully, her story is gracefully complemented by the fulfilling romance of Renée and Ozu. He is reaching out for Renée asking for love, but she is hesitant to grasp it. They are like teenagers caught in their first romance, uncomfortable holding hands and unsure of how to proceed.

“Hedgehog” is like Ozu in his relationship with Renée. It wants us to take hold of the world, to not be afraid to leave ourselves. It’s a film for anyone who has ever been too shy to ask for a first date; for anyone who has sat at a party trapped in his or her own thoughts, surrounded by the noise of pointless conversations, desperately wanting (even if they don’t know it) to make some sort of connection with others — to touch something.

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