Petite Maman, 2021.
Written and Directed by Céline Sciamma.
Starring Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne, and Margot Abascal.
Nelly has just lost her grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods. One day she meets a girl her same age building a treehouse.
One doesn’t need to think too hard to figure out what writer/director Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman is actually about (especially after reading the brief synopsis), as even knowing what’s coming is impossible to take away from the magical realism beauty of the dynamic. Such a revelation used in a film this pure of heart and intention is enough to make one wonder what else could brilliantly be done with the countless tropes of its kind out there.
Hot off of the astonishing Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Petite Maman couldn’t be a more different project in tone, functioning as one of the most charmingly wholesome movies of the year but not with a great deal of layered substance worth unpacking. At 72 minutes as brisk and breezy as the autumn setting, it’s even more tantalizing to dig into on repeat watches.
Céline Sciamma, working with her regular collaborator Claire Mathon, captures beautiful scenery ripe for playful adventures (a sailing scene, in particular, stands out as breathtaking) that develop into something tangible and emotional. Petite Maman is a cutesy and relaxed take on stepping into someone else’s shoes and understanding their perspective while attempting to grasp a more crystallized meaning of who they are and were. It may be small in a physical sense of scope (the film was clearly made during the ongoing global health crisis and is assuredly one of the most distinctly inventive films to come out of it), but artistically it’s an ambitiously enchanting, heart-meltingly sincere, and thoughtful work.
Petite Maman screened as part of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com