Shocking Truth Behind ‘Chicken for Linda!’ – A Missing Parent, Favorite Dish & A Bold Leap Forward!

Some recollections linger in our subconscious, awaiting a spark to bring them to the forefront. This spark can sometimes be a dish seasoned with potent nostalgia. This is the kind of unforgettable taste that the lively, exquisitely beautiful hand-drawn musical “Chicken for Linda!” delivers. Created by co-directors and life partners Sébastien Laudenbach and Chiara Malta, it’s an early and fierce contender for the best animated feature of the year.

Modeling the technique of Laudenbach’s 2016 solo project “The Girl Without Hands” (a slightly darker tale but just as captivating), this new collaboration employs deceptively simple line drawings for the characters. The way they move through the world conveys a sense of human touch behind every frame. The coloring doesn’t aim for realism; instead, each character is depicted by a single color, while the hand-painted backgrounds strive for a similarly symbolic quality.

Standing in stark contrast to the uniformity of photorealism that pervades U.S. animation (a trend that stylistically unique projects like the “Spider-Verse” movies are challenging), “Chicken for Linda!” appears as if it was lifted straight from an artist’s sketchbook.

Distinctly unique from the get-go, “Chicken for Linda!” plunges us into a household in a state of disrepair: a working-class Parisian apartment where Linda (voiced by Mélinée Leclerc), an unwaveringly tenacious and lively young girl, her mother, Paulette (Clotilde Hesme), and their cat have resided since before the girl’s father passed away when she was a baby. Later, in an impactful sequence that portrays Paulette driving at night with streaks of color representing passing car headlights, young Linda inquires about the afterlife and her father, whom she barely recalls, with heartbreaking honesty. Paulette can only provide terse responses.

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A far cry from ideal, the complex mother-daughter relationship is interwoven with both believable harshness and unconditional love, resulting in a depiction that makes the representation of childhood in most American family-oriented films seem simplistic. Witnessing Paulette cry after wrongfully accusing her vibrant daughter of losing the ring her late husband gave her carries a significant weight. Filled with regret, the imperfect mom promises to cook the chicken with peppers that Linda’s Italian father, Giulio (Pietro Sermonti), used to make.

But Paulette’s plan could be thwarted by a nationwide labor strike — a not-so-uncommon occurrence in France. With all businesses shuttered, where can this repentant single mother find the main ingredient? Linda won’t let it slide. This recipe is her only link to her dad. Their quest for chicken propels the adult and child into a madcap adventure, with each astonishing event introducing new characters into the mix.

The fact that even the most seemingly insignificant side characters exhibit recognizable human traits (often unattractive and chaotic) and distinct personalities further testifies to the skillfulness of Malta and Laudenbach’s writing. There’s Linda’s aunt Astrid (Laetitia Dosch), a passionate yoga trainer who consumes excessive amounts of candy to cope with stress; a novice police officer; a courteous truck driver; and a group of unruly kids (Linda’s friends) left unsupervised while their parents partake in street protests.

Every narrative thread introduced (a leak in Linda’s apartment, a batch of peppers left in the oven too long, Astrid’s sugar addiction) is resolved, yet never in a predictable way. Despite every element eventually fitting into place, this vibrant movie maintains a wild spirit, as uncontrollable as the live chicken that Linda and Paulette are chasing.

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However, it’s the film’s musical sequences — comparable to Disney productions in terms of thematic depth and visual charm — that are the most surprising. Focusing on the adult characters, these fantastical scenes offer insight into the very real worries that adults grapple with, depicted with a childlike whimsy that Linda (and younger viewers) can understand. The songs serve as bridges between generations: a testament that maturity doesn’t necessarily come with all the answers.

It’s astounding the number of concepts the extraordinarily dynamic “Chicken for Linda!” manages to pack into a mere 76 minutes, brought to life by a small team with a fraction of the resources that studio productions (with half the wit and depth) have. This story of parents and poultry more than justifies the exclamation point in its title. It pulls you into a whirlwind of creativity, frame by animated frame.

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