To most urbanites, foxes are those annoying, skinny-legged scavengers whose main purpose is to ransack dustbins and make a din like babies being strangled in the dead of night.
But, set in more natural surroundings, director Luc Jacquet’s beautifully simple and effective docu-drama presents an altogether more appealing picture of petit Renard.
Shot in the picturesque locales of Italy’s Abruzzes National Park and the Ain region of France, it follows a 10-year-old girl (Bertille Noël Bruneau) as she treks up hill and down dale to earn the trust of one of our vulpine friends.
Red hair is not their only shared trait; insatiable inquisitiveness leads to the young adventuress earning herself a broken ankle and getting lost in caves while there are close encounters with a fleet-footed lynx, an eagle, slippery frogs and a pack of mean-looking wolves.
But as the bond between them grows stronger, the girl mistakes companionship for ownership. Her efforts to turn ‘Lily’ into a pet inevitably end in tears. (Note to parents: keep a hanky handy.)
Seamlessly blending fairytale landscapes with a little digital cunning, Jacquet and cinematographer Gérard Simon capture and create some truly lovely images, from face-like tree trunks to fox-play in the moonlight.
Five foxes were used to play Lily and though anthropomorphism often descends into cutesiness, the range of emotions they convey is uncanny.
Perhaps a shade too long to hold the youngest viewers in permanent thrall, this is a family film in the truest sense - only the grouchiest bear won’t find something to like.
Hunt it out.