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Chicken for Linda! (Film Review)

3 min read
Chicken for Linda GKIDS

Image: © GKIDS Films

is a wonderful form of filmmaking if you are more interested in how things can feel, rather than how they physically appear. It can distort perception, warp reality, and find joy in placing you in someone else's shoes. Chicken for Linda!, from writer-directors Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach, is a loving lesson on how to pull this off. A fairly straightforward animation style belies a film brimming with colour and fun, allowing even the most stoney-faced viewer to once again look at the world around them through the eyes of a child.

Chicken for Linda! is about eight-year-old Linda () and, well, her chicken. Specifically, she wants chicken with peppers—a Basque staple—in the way that her late father used to make it. Sounds simple enough… except if you are the widowed mother Paulette (Lupin's ) who cannot cook to save your life, and when all of the shops where you might ordinarily buy chicken are closed because of a general strike. Throw in a gnarly aunt, a gentle truck driver, and a hapless police rookie among others, and things take decidedly wackier turns the longer the film goes on (which, at around only 75 minutes, isn't long at all). 

The hues used for each character are straightforward but effective. Linda is a vibrant yellow—her favourite colour—that matches her abundant energy. Paulette meanwhile is what often feels like a dull, labouring orange. The individual shades create a film of eclectic variety, with the abstract style given enough outline so that the onscreen action never fades into obscurity. The sheer array of colours reflects the wonderful chaos with which children can construct the worlds around them, and some of the film's biggest turning points (not to mention jokes) rest on the kind of chaotic actions that only kids can make. One scene where a gang of children start throwing various items of clothing at a tree, coating it in a rainbow of fabrics, is loaded with an innocent, amusing joy. 

By focusing on the experiences of children, both the good and the bad, Chicken for Linda! proves to be endlessly endearing as well as incredibly funny. Yet it never shakes the more mature edge of death and memory that also pervades the film. Chicken with peppers is more than a random meal choice; its sentimental value to both Linda and Paulette cannot be overstated. Admittedly, a dead parent arc isn't exactly original even in children's narratives. But rarely is it explored with such a qualified mix of cheer and severity. It is very telling that when the quest for this homecooked meal begins, the whole film becomes both visually and tonally lighter. Embracing the past and finding joy in the present takes weight off the shoulders of both mother and daughter. Their physical home might be a hive of maintenance issues, much to Paulette's frustration, but it is the home that she and Linda are together that becomes stronger as the film progresses. To observe this unfold, throughout the zany story and brilliant stylisation, is a nourishing experience.

Chicken for Linda! is about a lot of things. It is about how we load memory into the actions and items of our lives, about how the eyes of a child light up the world around them, and about how family can play a domineering part in our lives. It pulls off that neat trick of being fundamentally a film for children while never shying away from the more adult-focused themes that give the story substance. Malta and Laudenbach's film is blissfully charming, and sweet to a fault. 

Chicken for Linda! had its world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.