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Le hérisson
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Hedgehog More at IMDbPro »Le hérisson (original title)

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57 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

A fine blend of gravity and lightness

9/10
Author: guy-bellinger (guy.bellinger@wanadoo.fr) from Montigny-lès-Metz, France
28 July 2009

Three characters and no story. And yet, the film leaves a deep mark on the viewer. No car chases, no explosions, no convoluted plot twists. And yet it is captivating. Simply because the characters of "Le hérisson" are interesting and full of humanity and seeing them connect with each other is an experience rich enough to spare a strong plot.

The three characters concerned by "Le hérisson" are very different from each other ( Renée Michel is an unattractive slovenly cantankerous fifty-four-year-old caretaker; Paloma Josse is an extremely gifted but suicidal eleven-year-old little girl and Kakuro Ozu is a distinguished seventy-year- old Japanese widower). But they have two points in common: they live in the same residential house and, mostly, the three of them are eccentric. Not outlandish or extravagant, simply not like everybody else. Renée, although she tries to fit in with the image of the traditional caretaker (middle-aged, unsexy and grumpy), has a secret (that I won't reveal here, sorry) and is a much better person than what she looks like; Paloma is a very intelligent little girl, advanced for her age, who sees the world with more acuteness than most adults, which leads her to want to take her own life. As for Mr. Ozu, the mere fact that he is Japanese makes him conspicuous by definition. And what is wonderful is that when these three "outcasts" get into contact they start doing good to each other, and to the viewer as well.

This is young director Mona Achache's first feature film and it is amazing how well-crafted it is (smooth editing, fine cinematography, excellent art work). And above all it does justice to the novel adapted (Muriel Barbery's best-selling 'L'élégance du hérisson') by capturing the special blend of gravity and lightness that makes it so distinctive. Mona Achache also had the genius (I really do not think the word too strong) to find the three ideal actors for the leading roles. Josiane Balasko is perfect as Renée, ugly outside but beautiful inside. Togo Igawa is a dream Mr. Ozu; he is Japanese to the core, genuinely has class and really exudes sympathy. As for the little girl, wow! Garance Le Guillermic IS a discovery! I had seen her once without noticing her particularly (as one of the kids in 'Je déteste les enfants des autres') but, here, she is downright outstanding. It must not have been easy for her to play a child too mature, too intelligent, too critical for her age, hiding her insecurities behind her aggressiveness but the young actress lives up to the ordeal. This trio had to be perfect. If a single one of these three actors had been unconvincing, the film would have failed mercilessly.

Fortunately, it does not. 27-year-old Mona Achache works wonders in every department.. Her film is at the same time deep, moving and fun to watch. Don't miss it!

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47 out of 57 people found the following review useful:

A delicate touch to depict three magic souls

9/10
Author: simona gianotti from Italy
8 January 2010

I am now quietly used to going to movie theatres alone (in Italy this is still seen as an "odd" thing), I like it although regretting not exchanging opinion with some company, but this time an old woman was sitting, on her own, next to me, and at the end of the movie, we watched one another with our eyes suffocating some necessary tears, and she said: "how sad, but what a nice movie", I couldn't but agree with her (and innerly hoping I will still be able to go movie theatre, in my older years). "Le herisson" is the cinematographic adaptation of a best selling novel, a real literary case, which I have read, being quite surprised by the idea of making a movie from it, since it is a book where really little happens, and where the writer loves, and manages to play with the aesthetic, intellectual and emotional power of words.

But the young director Mona Achache managed to transpose the subtlety of the written word, in that she focused on the three main characters perfectly. They are three delicate souls, perceived by others as "odd", eccentric, different: Renée, the caretaker, apparently dowdy and ignorant, on the contrary very cultured and hiding a sensitive soul, Paloma , the "complicated", but in reality deep young girl, simply disregarding the void adult world, and the amazing Kakuro, the prototype of what a real man should be, refined in his soul, respectful, tactful. And you come to ask yourself why such high human qualities are viewed as odd, while they should be the normal way of living! In today's standardized, vulgar world, I perceived the movie as an effective antidote, supporting with strength the value of the uniqueness of the single human being. It is also a praise of delicacy and slowness, of the magic of a single spoken word or a single kind gesture, or a single soft glance: a few things happen, and a few things are said, simply because for a full life, we don't need to see or hear many things , we need a few but good things.

Despite its slowness, the movie is never boring, on the contrary I felt raptured by the delicacy and the calmness of these characters, wonderfully interpreted by three talented and actors. I identified myself also with the little Paloma, probably because she reminded me at her own age, when I liked being on my own, finding my secret refuge, where I could stay alone with my thoughts, as I grew up I realized how people could have seen my as a "difficult", even problematic child, but also fully realized how it is easy to be judged because different from the mass, but how important to keep your real inner precious world alive. Go and see it, you will be enchanted by these three simple, plain, but magic characters.

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25 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Exquisite French film. Impeccable.

9/10
Author: David Traversa from Argentina
12 December 2010

This film is so good I wanted it to run forever. The unfolding of characters, especially Paloma --the 11 years old girl--and the Concierge of the building, are so masterful, that one seats there mesmerized waiting to see the new developments.

The concierge character is a tour de force. The way she starts, as an obscure caretaker, moving the trash cans of the rich neighbors out on the sidewalk --only five huge de luxe apartments at her charge-- retrieving the empty containers the next morning and always moody and dry (as she herself puts it to Paloma, the girl, "the perfect concierge" according to the accepted urban legend about concierges in people's mind), and then because of her unexpected interacting with that precocious girl and the impeccable Japanese new neighbor, her subtle but unstoppable changes are something to be seen (as are also the changes in Paloma and the perfect Japanese new neighbor).

The little girl's mother, psychoanalyzed and medicated, watering her plants and talking to them (I do it too) with much more love and infinite care than to her own daughter, is fully drawn in a very succinct and accurate way.

Paloma is left alone to her own devices, and they only consist of an old fashioned movie camera --her father's gift to her-- perennially in front of her face (she films everything that moves) and her drawings (delightful) where she expresses her most inner thoughts.

This is a perfect example of a French film --I ADORE this type of French cinema--where very little happens but in such an intimate and delicate communion with the viewer that it absorbs one's mind completely, and doesn't let go till the very end, in the most poignantly and unexpected possible way, as it's the case in the present film. See it, it's totally worth your while.

I only wish you'll enjoy it as much as I did. Precious.

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18 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

A delightful, insightful comedy of manners

7/10
Author: Esmee Webb from Australia
30 April 2010

I suppose if you have not read the book on which this film is based (L'elegance du herisson) you might be a little bewildered. I and the the jam-packed audience I saw it with in Fremantle, Western Australia, had. It is a delightful study of three 'outsider' personalities: a precocious teenage girl, a very unusual concierge and a Japanese gentleman. It probably resonates more if you know France, especially Paris; even Europe would do. I am now looking for it on DVD (at a reasonable price for Region 4) because it is a film I know I will watch again and again for its delicate study of 'la condition humaine' - the character studies are delightful. Don't be put off by earlier reviews. Leave your prejudices outside the cinema and sit back and enjoy a delicate, delightful study of three very non-American people observed in a very non-American way. If Australians can appreciate this film, it should appeal to anyone with sensibilities.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful story, but...

7/10
Author: vindstilla from Sweden
7 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I totally loved this film to begin with, and thought I would rank it as one of my favorite films ever. It reminded me of "Amélie" or similar feel good movies. I was really drawn into the story and felt for all the crucial characters. Also, the photo was fantastic and I felt so happy watching this film. Until the sudden ending...

Why is is that film makers and writers these days can't stand a happy ending? I was totally devastated watching this ending. To me it really ruined the film, destroying everything that had been built up. I understand the philosophical viewpoint and all, wanting to add some kind of depth to the story... But depth isn't necessarily synonymous with misery! Of course, this is probably how the book ended and thus the film had to end the same way. Yet, I am disappointed and even though I liked the film I wouldn't recommend it. It is just too sad. The last thing I want after watching a great and (to a certain point) happy film, is a bad feeling lingering on inside.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A rare gem- a movie that is humorously smart and yet deeply moving

7/10
Author: moviexclusive from Singapore
20 May 2012

Paloma Josse (Garance Le Guillermic) is a eleven year old girl disturbed by her privileged life in Paris. Her father Paul (Wladimir Yordanoff) is distracted by his government job while her mother Solange (Anne Brochet) drinks champagne with anti-depressants while talking to her plants. She decides she will kill herself in 165 days on her 12th birthday and begins to document the hypocrisy of the adults in her apartment building with her father's old camcorder. The apartment janitor, Renee, may appear to be a just another middle-aged woman who is bitter and grumpy, somewhat prickly, but when a new Japanese neighbor, Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa) moves in, he sees something else in her, something soft. This intrigues Paloma about "The Hedgehog", a term used to describe Renee. Despite the fact that Paloma and Renee are on opposite ends of the socioeconomic scale, both of them prefers to quietly observe life from a place of relative obscurity while dwelling on the edge of the society

The soul of the film is definitely the subtle love story between Kakuro and Renee. Kakuro surprises Renee by completing her comment that 'happy families are all alike,' with 'but each unhappy family is unique,' which is a direct quote from a novel during their first meeting. As Renee goes through her own transformation, the chemistry between her and Kakuro grows. It was then the three form a unique bond and we see Paloma and Renee emerge from hiding and begin to embrace life..

While adapting Muriel Barbery's bestselling novel "The Elegance of the Hedgehog", director Mona Achache makes a memorable directorial debut. She complements Barbery's style and enhances her work through Paloma's actions, doing things such as putting her older sister Colombe (Sarah Le Picard) in a 'fishbowl' by filming her through a glass of water (as a metaphor of Paloma's own life) and animating the drawings she created. While her character provides the narrative framing, young Le Guillermic makes an entertaining observer and narrator. The supporting cast as the Josse family gives a solid performance, creating a household which Paloma wish to escape from thoroughly believable. Igawa as Kakuro is gentle but understated and Balasko's Renee is a revelation, her performance is nuanced and graceful from within her dowdy exterior.

The Hedgehog is a heartwarming and unique tale, highlighting the importance of digging through the hard surface of life for the chance of discovering the hidden meanings and enjoyment beneath. Life, sometimes like the hedgehog, conceals a sophisticated elegance beneath a spiky veneer.

- www.moviexclusive.com

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Cats and Goldfish

7/10
Author: David Ferguson (fergusontx@gmail.com) from Dallas, Texas
25 September 2011

Greetings again from the darkness. The directorial feature debut from Mona Achache is based on the French bestseller "The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery. The meticulous pace masks whirlwind of emotion and thought occurring in the three key characters. Three characters whom each of us could be guilty of overlooking on a daily basis.

For those who don't know, the film defines a hedgehog as a prickly-on- the-outside, cuddly-on-the-inside critter that is often misjudged. Our three characters all fit this description in some manner. Paloma (Garance LeGuillermic) is an 11 year old girl who plans to kill herself on her 12th birthday because no one understands her and her life is filled with what are the minor inconveniences of being an 11 year old - her mother talks to plants more than she talks to her, her father is a distracted workaholic, and her self-centered teenage sister is, well, a self-centered teenager. Madame Renee Michel (Josiane Balasko) is the building's caretaker. Self-described as old and ugly, she lives the life of quiet desperation, hiding with her cat and massive library of books and chocolate. The building's new tenant is Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa), a mysterious and elegant man who immediately sees through Madame Michel's prickly exterior.

Paloma spends much of her day documenting by video camera the goings on in her life and of those in her building. She often adds her insightful and humorous narrative to the scene as it occurs. Her view on life and its possibilities begins to change as she observes and gets to know Madame Michel and Mr. Ozu, and more importantly, observes their interactions.

The underlying storyline of an 11 year old girl contemplating suicide can be quite disturbing, but director Achache never really lets that occur. Instead we focus on very simple acts of kindness and subtle smiles and gestures that indicate life can be rewarding and worthwhile. I also found Madame Michel's surrender to the state of invisibility to be quite disturbing, but her awakening to be fascinating. She had not been rejected by society as much as simply overlooked.

Unlike many French movies that bombard us with rapid fire, overlapping exchanges, this one instead relies on patience and a sharp eye ... think of it as the slight squeeze while holding a loved one's hand.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

empty world through the eyes of an eleven-year-old

10/10
Author: Lee Eisenberg (lee.eisenberg.pdx@gmail.com) from Portland, Oregon, USA
6 August 2013

Mona Achache's movie "Le hérisson" ("The Hedgehog" in English) is about a Parisian girl leading an unfulfilled life with her affluent family, and so she decides to commit suicide on her twelfth birthday. In the process of filming her apartment and family, the girl befriends the concierge.

The movie presents a good contrast between the girl's disillusionment with her posh but superficial world and the concierge's appreciation of what little she has, and showing how the concierge is able to develop a relationship with a Japanese widower who moves into the apartment building. The girl's filming her sister throughout the goldfish bowl is a metaphor for the new look that she's taking at her bourgeois existence. In the end, the girl does start to reconsider her suicidal plans. Achache made a very good movie, one that I truly recommend.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The super

7/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
11 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A precocious girl of eleven is as the center of this dramatic comedy that takes place in an upper middle class apartment building in Paris. Paloma lives with her parents and sister in a well appointed space. She has a vivid imagination and loves to videotape everything she sees, something that unnerves her sister and annoys the grownups in the household. She makes no bones in wanting to end her life when she turns twelve; for that, she has been steeling pills from her mother's and hiding them away.

Renee Michel is the woman in charge of cleaning the public areas of the building, as well as an assortment of jobs that must be performed. Renee likes Paloma because she finds a kindred spirit with no malice. Mme. Michel is a widow whose whole life is contained in the small ground floor apartment next to the entrance door. Even though her hours of work are posted for all to see, she is called upon different times to do things for the residents, something she feels strongly about. Unknown to all, Renee is a sensitive woman with a secret passion for literature. The inner room of her apartment is filled with the books she so enjoy, but that area is out of bounds for anyone calling at her door.

An older Japanese man, Kakuro Ozu, a widower, moves to a vacant apartment whose previous owner has died. Coming across Renee Michel one day, he says something, which gets an answer from her which he realizes is a quote from "Anna Karenina". Her favorite author happens to be Tolstoy, after whom she named her cat Leo. Kakuro makes a tentative move to invite Renee to his apartment for tea, as their friendship blossoms. Later on, he leaves an outfit for Renee to wear when he invites her for dinner. Renee, who had neglected the way she looks is suddenly transformed into a figure other people in the building do not even recognize when she is leaving with Kakuro.

This is a bittersweet comedy written and directed by Mona Achache who made her full length feature debut with the film. Ms. Achache also adapted the original novel by Muriel Barbery that was a success in France and in other countries. In fact, Ms. Achache's treatment works well in the screen because she got the essence of the novel in cinematic terms, something that the book narrative did not make an easy task for Ms. Achache.

It is basically a tale of loneliness and reconnection among the three principals in the story. Some remarks on this page of IMDb have been directed at the way the story makes no sense because, after all, how would any snobbish dweller of the building dare to even consider socializing with the lowly Renee, or for that matter with the supposedly great apartment of Kakuro owns and its transformation. If these viewers would have read the novel, they would have a different idea, in that the coming of Mr. Ozu into the building, causes all kinds of expectation by the curious neighbors while it was being remodeled. These are things that film creators and writers love to do even if they make no sense. Some fantasies do come true in real life, after all.

Josiane Balasko has one of her best opportunities as Mme. Michel. This is one of her best roles in quite some time and she does wonderful work for Ms. Achache. Same can be said of Garance Le Guillermic whose Paloma endears herself to the audience. Veteran Japanese actor Togo Igawa is perfect as Kakuro Ozu.

One can only hope Mona Achachu will go to bigger and better things in the not too distant future.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

'Happy families are all alike, but each unhappy family is unique.'

10/10
Author: gradyharp from United States
23 August 2012

Something there is about little French films that is like discovering a free-floating water lily in a quiet stream: it approaches you, shares it lovely scent as it passed, and then continues on out of sight, leaving you warmly happy at the privilege of observing a gentle bit of nature if only for a moment. THE HEDGEHOG does just that. Mona Achache directs her screen play adapted from the novel "L'élégance du hérisson" by Muriel Barbery, casts an impeccable group of actors who bring to life this tale of how serendipitous nods of love can alter lives.

The title comes form the definition of a hedgehog as a prickly-on- the-outside, cuddly-on- the-inside critter that is often misjudged. And that definition applies to several characters in the story though it is most directly connected to bourgeoisie apartment house concierge Renee Michel (Josiane Balasko), a middle-aged and sour hermit who lives to mop the floor, distribute mail, and to give you a wary eye to passersby. The building is inhabited by rich people, a fact we learn from the narrator of the story - Paloma Josse (Garance Le Guillermic), an eleven-year-old girl disturbed by her privileged life in Paris. Her father Paul (Wladimir Yordanoff) is distracted by his government job while her mother Solange (Anne Brochet) drinks champagne with anti-depressants while talking to her plants, and her sister Colombe (Sarah Le Picard) focuses her shallow life on a pet goldfish. She decides she will kill herself in 165 days on her 12th birthday and begins to document the hypocrisy of the adults in her apartment building with her father's old 8mm camcorder. Her harsh judgments do not seem to include Renee: though they are at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum Paloma senses something unusual about Renee, explores her apartment and discovers the extensive secret library in Renee's back room, and that the often untidy appearing and distant matron reads Tolstoy to her cat Leo. Renee's hedgehog appearance does indeed contain a cuddly inside, a fact that is revealed when a new tenant - Kakuro Ozu (Togo Igawa) moves in and he and Paloma realize they are kindred spirits. Mr. Ozu is a wealthy Japanese businessman and he strikes up a friendship with Paloma as they discuss their shared curiosity for the downstairs concierge woman and their delight in playing the game Go with one another. Kakuro's attention to and kindness for Renee creates changes: Renee is instructed by the maid Manuela Lopez (Ariane Ascaride) to have her hair done and to wear a new dress when Renee reluctantly accepts Kakuro's invitation to dinner. As Paloma observes the changes Kakuro creates in both Renee and in herself, her own coming of age becomes a much less pessimistic prospect. 'Planning to die doesn't mean I let myself go like a rotten vegetable. What matters isn't the fact of dying or when you die. It's what you're doing at that precise moment.' And from there the story moves like that free floating water lily - passing on through life enlightened by its presence.

Josiane Belasko, Garance Le Guillermic, and Togo Igawa are brilliant in their roles. The script is quiet, intelligent and ultimately deeply touching, but it is the direction of Mona Achache that polishes this little gem to a glow. Clearly this is one of the finest films of the past decade.

Grady Harp

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