This stop-motion production is at once melancholy and engaging as it explores the psyche of a lonely boy nicknamed Zucchini in a home for damaged children. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.

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In a home for damaged children, a young boy wrestles with guilt and loneliness and dearly hopes to find friendship and love in “My Life as a Zucchini.”

This stop-motion French-Swiss coproduction, one of this year’s Oscar nominees for best animated feature, is at once melancholy and engaging as it explores the psyche of its title character.

In his first outing as a feature director, Claude Barras — working from a screenplay by Céline Sciamma, based on the novel “Autobiography of a Courgette” by Gille Paris — approaches the subject matter with great delicacy. The character design of his stop-motion puppets, particularly their big, soulful, expressive eyes, touch the heart as they convey the wounded inner lives of the 9-year-old boy nicknamed Zucchini and his friends at the group home.

Movie Review ★★★  

‘My Life as a Zucchini,’ with the voices of Erick Abbate, Ness Krell, Nick Offerman, Romy Beckman. Directed by Claude Barras, from a screenplay by Céline Sciamma. 68 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and suggestive material. SIFF Film Center.

They’re castoff kids, their troubled histories enumerated in a quietly wrenching scene in which tales of abuse, madness, violence and suicide are briefly related. They’re badly scarred, but the compassion and understanding with which they’re treated by the staff at the home helps to heal them.

Zucchini blames himself for the accidental death of his abusive, alcoholic mother and aches with the memory of the father who abandoned him long ago. He’s drawn the man’s image on a kite and holds tight to its string as it flutters in the wind and tries to fly off.

Camille, a girl with an even more appalling backstory than his own, comes into Zucchini’s life, and it’s first love at first sight. She’s a fierce and no-nonsense survivor and he finds her fascinating.

The most complex character in the picture is Simon, the redheaded alpha-male boy at the home. A bully in the beginning, he shows unexpected insightfulness and protectiveness toward Zucchini and Camille as the picture unfolds.

A kindly policeman named Raymond also offers emotional shelter to Zucchini — and the possibility of a happier life.

Along with the kids’ sorrow, Barras works uplift and lightness into the story, and there are moments of great joy. In the end, it’s positivity that prevails.