a review by Nalini Haynes
Paloma is the central character of the Hedgehog, an 11 year old girl who has decided to commit suicide on her 12th birthday because, as she says, she does not want to grow up in a fish bowl dashing herself against the glass like a fly trying to get out. Paloma is precocious, displaying a perfect blend of child-like curiousity and experimentation alongside extreme intelligence coupled with insensitive acerbic insight into those around her.
Paloma’s mother has spent 10 years in therapy, dependent on prescription medication and champagne, lavishing the love and attention on her plants that could have been better directed at the daughter she doesn’t understand. The older sister is determined not to be as neurotic as her mother, but is a self-involved university student who throws a tantrum when she is told to respect the labour laws. The father is a politician about to be reshuffled out of cabinet, meaning well but ineffective in his family life. Kakuro Ozu is the new tenant who moves in after the tragic death of the previous tenant. A Japanese gentleman, he builds friendships with Paloma and Renee.
The hedgehog of the movie name is Renee Michel, who works as a janitor in a building of luxury apartments. She describes herself as ugly and overweight, but always polite, believing that people want a discreet janitor and expect a surly one. At first she epitomises the ideal surly janitor, but developing relationships with the persistent Kakuro and Paloma transform her.
The use of art as Paloma’s tool of exploration in film making, her ‘advent to death’ calender and expression of discovery is beautiful, and used well to emphasise the development of the characters. Humorous moments sparkle as a counterpoint to the difficult times.
Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton both gave The Hedgehog 3.5 stars out of 5. Personally I enjoyed this film, but Margaret and David both found the idea of the 11 year old thinking of suicide to be disturbing, and may have detracted from the movie for them.
This review was previously published in Dark Matter issue 1, October 2010, and predated on this website to reflect the original publication date.