New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Review: ‘Chicken for Linda!’ is chaotically charming and delightfully delicious

The French animated film packs a surprisingly magnificent punch of touching and hilarious moments.
“Chicken for Linda!” is a 2023 animated film written and directed by Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach. (Courtesy of GKIDS)

The relationship between a parent and child is never simple. There’s bickering, fighting and yelling, and two seconds later a reconciliation of “I love you, too.” The French, award-winning animated film “Chicken for Linda!” charms viewers as it portrays the complicated nature of parent-child relationships and the outlandish lengths a mother goes to serve dinner.

The film, directed by Sébastien Laudenbach, tells a heartwarming story of pre-teen Linda (voiced by Melinée Leclerc) and her widowed mother, Paulette (Clotilde Hesme). Feeling guilty for mistakenly blaming Linda for losing her wedding ring, Paulette decides to grant her a single wish, anything she wants. Linda, a doe-eyed child, simply wishes for her deceased father’s chicken and peppers recipe, a meal that she frequently ate when she was younger but does not know how to cook. The next day, the two set out for the essential component — a measly pound of chicken. Because of a strike shutting down the city, their plans get twisted down a path of absurdist comedy, from stealing a live chicken and running away from Paulette’s manic sister Astrid (Laetitia Dosch), to a police chase on a bicycle. The film never misses a beat of frantic energy as it goes from one hilarious scene to the next through its delightfully childlike animation.

“Chicken for Linda!” encapsulates the rapidly active and chaotic nature of growing up that only the medium of animation can represent. It employs a beautifully hand-drawn art style that blends abstract designs of characters and environments with whimsical colors. The imperfectly watercolored-in characters feel like they’ve been painted with a child’s unrelenting brushstrokes and a general lack of interest in staying within the lines. The style of the film is reminiscent of Laudenbach’s previous feature-length film, “The Girl Without Hands,” yet it has its own youthlike sensibilities and mannerisms that are fresh and imaginative. 

The film’s looseness and nonconformity is not only shown through its animation but also through the way it plays with different genres and tones. It switches from comical slapstick routines, to moments of familial drama, to surrealist musical numbers. This swapping of genres and styles plays fantastically to the fast and loose childlike nature of the film going from one idea to the next in a split second.

The characters are laugh-out-loud funny and deliver some of the most memorable and deeply moving moments in recent animated cinema. The dynamic between Paulette and Linda is especially touching as the film subtly grasps themes of guilt and grief while maintaining its lighthearted and kinetic energy throughout — the pair are integral to the film’s emotional impact and comedy. Laudenbach and Chiara Malta, who also co-wrote the film, are incredibly effective at maximizing the film’s short runtime while using disorder to create these complex characters. Astrid, Paulette’s sister, steals every scene she is in as she chases Linda and Paulette down their antics. Alongside Astrid, the many other side characters all complement Linda and Paulette and add to the film’s quirky tone.

The film never forgets its national identity as well, as it playfully deals with the revolutionary notions of its French identity to create a truly riotous and absurdly hilarious movie. While daydreaming in class, Linda’s teacher lectures on what the French civilians did to the king in the 18th century. From incompetent police to a protest of children chasing a chicken, the film takes jabs at past and present French histories with a playful tonality.

The film clocks in at a little bit over 70 minutes, giving it a panicky tone, with little breathing room to relax. Yet, this breakneck editing and temporality plays an important role in the narrative and in maintaining proximity between the characters and the viewer. The film makes space for more heavy parts within its comedy, never becoming overbearing with gags and bits. The comedy only adds to Linda and Paulette’s love for each other and the lengths they will go to for a taste of chicken. The cathartic and sweet ending to its mayhem makes an exceptionally moving film. This lovably charming film shows itself to be a delectable recipe for success.

“Chicken for Linda!” is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Contact Gabriel Murray at [email protected].

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