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petite maman

★★★★★

directors: Celine Sciamma (portrait of a woman on fire)
starring: Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Josephine Sanz and Stephane Varupenne

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

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.

I was a teenager when the little independent cinema in our tiny rural town started showing French films. Intrigued I went along and found a whole new, unique way of seeing the world and your place in it. The French films I saw were filled with fantastical whimsy yet deep, plumbing the depths of human emotion all while finding the humor in it all. Petite Maman is all of those things and so much more. A wondrous, fantastical tale that is also deeply personal and reflective, Petite Maman is a glorious sight to behold with a director at the very height of her craft.   

 

8-year-old Nelly has just lost her beloved grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods where her mom, Marion, used to play and built the treehouse she’s heard so much about. One day her mother abruptly leaves. That’s when Nelly meets a girl her own age in the woods building a treehouse. Her name is Marion.

 

Set within the brisk running time of just over an hour, Petite Maman packs a heck of a lot into that short time while having enough space to create believable, human characters in a believable and at times fantastical world. 

 

Céline Sciamma, director of the glorious Portrait of a Lady on Fire, brings us another film that solidifies her place as not only one of the best women filmmakers working today but one of the best period. Her deft exploration of female identity and relationships deft along with her delicate touches are all over this crafting a perfectly formed film. 

 

Narratively Sciamma leaves the characters and us, the audience, enough time to breathe, to explore, and wonder. Her exploration of relationships between generations and even ourselves and of grief are profound. In lesser hands the more fantastical scenes wouldn’t have worked, but here they ring completely true, adding a richer dimension to the film. 

 

A wondrous, fantastical tale that is also deeply personal and reflective, Petite Maman is a glorious sight to behold with a director at the very height of her craft.   

★★★★★