A girl helps an old woman complete a crossword puzzle and then says goodbye to her, then the camera follows the girl to an adjoining room where the girl says goodbye to another old woman, the same thing happens again until finally the girl arrives a room where your mother is. Petite Maman puts us in what is clearly a hospice for the elderly and without further explanation, we understand that the girl’s grandmother, her mother’s mother, has passed away. The following minutes are fundamental for understanding the whole plot because they reflect a discreet complicity between mother and daughter, it is a complementarity that is manifested with the little girl’s hands taking some sandwiches to her mother’s mouth while she drives.
Celine Sciammawho a few years ago directed the arrogance Portrait of a Woman on Fire (2019), builds the film around the void left by the death of a mother and the reflection of the definition of identity that intertwines between mothers and daughters. The story is based on a fantasy where time loses relevance and where childhood innocence is the main protagonist. Sciamma has an impeccable mastery of this capacity for surprise that children have and which is played by Nelly, the lonely, curious and intelligent little girl.
It is inevitable to enter the spaces of the old house that the deceased grandmother left behind or to get lost in the forest that surrounds it. When Nelly meets another girl in the woods, the intimacy that develops between them is immediate, almost natural. The movie will then explain to us why and this whole puzzle full of sweetness will find a meaning that goes straight to the heart.
Petite Mama (2021) It is a carefully crafted film, with a contemplative attitude and at the same time contagious in its delicate and sensitive spirit. The inevitable loneliness we all feel as children at some point is reflected on the screen and mixed with that sense of bewilderment to understand everything that happens around us. The dialogues are precise and the paintings frame spaces that seem taken from a children’s book with some fascinating story.
The acting work falls to the twins Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz, who play Nelly and Marion, the two girls who seem to get confused and whose bond is built like the hut of branches and logs that form in the middle of the forest. Imagination has to fly and the two interpret this journey with a solidity that seems loaded with experience.
The connection between generations, the meeting of the past, the construction of a feminine identity and the design of a world of its own are presented in a subtle and brilliant way. This is a great film, made by a director who continues to build a remarkable filmography and which will inevitably make us think of our mother, Spanish for Petite Maman.