Animation Features Movies

For Linda!
(Linda Veut
Du Poulet !)

Directors – Sébastien Laudenbach, Chiara Malta – 2022 – France, Italy – 75m

*** 1/2

A mother’s relationship with her young daughter lurches into farce as a domestic misunderstanding spirals out of control – from the Annecy International Animation Festival 2023 in the Official Competition section

This starts off with a poem in French – which, alas, has lost its rhyming in the translation to English subtitles – about the blackness of night and the empire of memory, illustrated by images within a little circle, including a ring. Then it moves to another series of floating circles, one of which is little, yellow-coloured, toddler Linda sitting in a high chair being fed spicy chicken – her favourite – by her muted-red-coloured father (voice: Pietro Sermonti) and her orange-coloured mum (voice: Clothilde Hesme), while amidst a popping of champagne corks – the muted red lines of dad’s colour against the black background – mother calls out papa’s name Giulio in horror and little Linda is upset…

The present, years later; an image not now in small circles but filling the whole movie picture frame. Schoolgirl Linda (voice: Mélinée Leclerc) badgers her mum into letting her borrow mum’s special ring, plays with it for a day then takes it to school the next day where she hangs out with her purple-coloured friend Annette (voice: Scarlett Cholleton), whose mum had bought her a beret in the exact same colour as Linda’s yellow, which Annette lends her. There are massive cheers from the kids at the end of class when their teacher reminds them there will be no school tomorrow because a general strike is being staged.

At home, Linda’s mum finds the ring missing after, as she believes, Linda took it to school, then came home without the ring but with the yellow beret instead. Mum draws her own conclusions, calling her daughter a thief and a liar, and in place of Linda’s planned sleepover with Annette, grounds Linda for the night with her own, pink-reddish sister (voice: Laetitia Dosch) in the latter’s flat. En route to her sister’s, Paulette slaps Linda hard, in full view of all the children in the neighbouring apartment blocks. On arrival, her sister notes that Paulette’s whingeing to get her to babysit is duplicated in the whingeing of her niece Linda.

At home, while makeshift fixing the sink plumbing and clearing up a mess made by the purple family cat Gazza, Paulette discovers the ring in the cat’s vomit when it throws up under the sink and realises she’s punished Linda for something the child didn’t do. She offers Linda whatever she wants to make up for it: Linda, who wouldn’t touch her aunt’s cooking, immediately asks for chicken with peppers. Paulette isn’t sure she’s up to it. But she promised. Accompanied by a sweet song about parents not sleeping because of their kids waking up, Paulette pours over her late husband’s cookery books, finds the recipe and is consumed with grief, only to be found asleep at the kitchen table by Linda in the morning .

They go out in the rain to buy ingredients, but everywhere is closed because of the general strike. Paulette leaves Linda in the car while she attempts to buy chicken from the clueless, stoner son of the local farmer and his wife (who have gone to the demo). In desperation, Paulette steals one from their chicken coop, leaving Linda with the kids on the next floor down while she takes the chicken to the flat to kill it. Unable to do so, she phones Astrid, then is spotted driving off by Linda, who races down to the car. When mother and daughter are stopped by two cops, the boot is open and the. chicken escapes. They finally get hold of Astrid (her sister) as she’s leading an exercise class. Astrid cancels the class and (in another song) binges on sweets to dispel the stress caused by her sister.

Events get ever more farcical, and in the ensuing chase by the junior of the two cops, mother and daughter end up in a lorry. When the cycling copper finally pulls him over, the driver falls for Paulette and says his own mother, who lives in a local housing block, was raised in the countryside and should be able to kill the chicken. A song by Giulio describes how he died by getting a chicken bone stuck in his throat, the teagic event Linda witnessed as a toddler.

The plot is a shaggy dog story, which starts off highly engaging but wears thin after a while as one improbable event piles on to another. The script feels as if it wants to articulate something abut the value of community, but seems to get lost somewhere in the process. It comes on as lightweight and friendly, but doesn’t seem to quite know how to utilise that bias and turn it into a great film like that live action, other, much grimmer, recent, general strike-based, Parisian drama Full Time (Eric Gravel, 2021). That’s a pity, because so many French movies swiftly descend into the cliché of dramas with hordes of unlikeable, social realist characters whereas, by way of contrast, this animated effort feels like it’s trying to construct a more joyous image of community than that popular French stereotype, but doesn’t quite know how to do it.

The characters are likeable up to a point, notably the winsome Linda. A girl of Linda’s age with whom Linda often hangs out named Carmen (voice: Alenza Dus) and her little brother Pablo (voice: Anna Parent), both of whom are rendered in green and who live in the same block, also play significant roles on the fringes of the narrative. So too does the memorable, purple family cat, Gazza.

What this does have going for it are superb animated visuals, based around an idea that different individuals and their personalities can be represented by different colours. It’s very easy to identify recurring characters when they reappear. This is probably used most effectively at the start when the purple Annette, topped by a yellow beret, offers to lend it to the yellow Linda, who is exactly the same colour. It seems to express perfectly why a certain item (in this case of clothing, but it could be anything) seems such a good fit for a given person. In addition, there are wide shots in which character outlines sit atop blurry, circular blobs of colour. The highly effective backgrounds are designed by Margaux Duseigneur, who also worked on The Crossing (Florence Miailhe, 2021).

The opening promises an essay on memory, one of the great themes of the cinema, and has a nice visual metaphor of separate memories portrayed in simultaneous floating circles, but what follows spectacularly fails to deliver on either score.

Still, it’s pleasing on the eyes, the characters are likeable enough and it’s a satisfying story in itself. There’s also nothing here you wouldn’t want kids to see, but at the same time, the portrayal of the stresses and strains of parenthood will endear the film to adults.

Chicken For Linda! plays in the Annecy International Animation Festival 2023 which is taking place from Sunday 11th to Saturday 17th June in the Official Competition section.

Pilot (Vimeo):

Festival Trailer:



Annecy International Animation Festival

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