Film Reviews

Review: ‘Pickle’

Hot Docs 2016

Peanut the cat was given a life expectancy of 6 months. He died 13 years later in the driveway.


Pickle
(USA, 15 min.)
Dir. Amy Nicholson
Programme: Short Docs (International Premiere)

Out of all the films playing at this year’s Hot Docs, the one I’ve watched the most is Pickle. Sure, at a brisk quarter hour, it’s easier to consume than most, and like the foodstuff that gives it its name it’s equal parts sweet, sour and savoury. Yet what sets Pickle apart is its near perfect tone, providing a positively delightful mix of the macabre and the manic with this look at a couple of quirky animal lovers.

Tied to some delightful animation (complete with Chuck Jones levels of sound design cleverness), Pickle tells the story of a menagerie of pets from a decidedly diverse selection of species cared for by a couple of well-meaning individuals. From obese chickens to blind dogs all the way through to the titular deformed fish, each creature great and small is given its own epic narrative, drawn from its carefree life in bucolic surroundings until its inevitable, and often comic, death.

On one level, the film is simply a smattering of kooky stories, but on another, it’s a deeply ruminative, philosophical treatise on the human capacity to empathise, to anthropomorphise, and even to self-delude when accepting pet animals into our everyday lives.

With its slightly over-exposed aesthetic the film gains an almost heavenly quality. One could imagine the protagonists being interrogated about the creatures in their care at some pearly gate. They sure make a good case for getting brownie points for helping out even the most maggot-ridden mammal found on the roadside.

Pickle is a delicious treat, a knockout of a film that shows a decidedly deft directorial touch by Ms. Nicholson. This should be a silly, throwaway film. Instead this tale of love and loss may just became a favourite of yours, too.

Please visit the POV Hot Docs hub for more coverage on this year’s festival.

Hot Docs runs April 28 – May 8. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for more information.