Petite Maman (2021)

CELINE SCIAMMA

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

, 2021. , , , , , . Screenplay by Céline Sciamma. Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by . Production Design by . Costume Design by Céline Sciamma. Film Editing by .

A little girl named Nelly says goodbye to patients at a hospital while her mother clears the room her grandmother had been occupying before her recent death. Nelly and her parents head to her grandmother’s house and the adults get to packing up the woman’s effects, while Nelly explores the grounds around the property. She encounters a little girl named Marion with whom she becomes friends, noticing that when visits Marion’s home that it looks an awful lot like the one she came from. In fact, Marion also bears a strong resemblance to Nelly (the characters are played by twin sisters), and it turns out that this is because Marion is actually someone with a special connection to our heroine’s past.

Is it magic? Imagination? In the world of children there is little difference, and grief is a concept hard enough for adults to cope with let alone for young minds trying to understand its significance. This minor charmer by Celine Sciamma, who has already shown her deft touch with exploring the mind’s life of young characters, is detailed enough to avoid just being an adorable gimmick, though ultimately it’s little more than that. The stakes are all pretty safe here, the child’s response to loss is sweet and contained, her encounter with her new friend is adorable and unremarkable, and the resolution is polite and satisfying.

As an exercise in the director’s talent for restraint it’s a sterling example, coupled with her wisdom to keep it at a very modest 76-minute running time, but otherwise it doesn’t leave too deep an impression and is bested by such similar predecessors as Summer 1993 and Ponette.

Berlin Film Festival: In Competition

Toronto International Film Festival: 2021

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