Petite Maman: A quietly powerful fairytale about childhood, loss, and ties that bind

The director of Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Girlhood is back with an exquisite, wistful film for all ages weaving together threads evoking films as different as Ponette, Frequency, and My Neighbor Totoro.

SDG Original source: Catholic World Report

My father died a year ago, and when I preached at his funeral Mass I was struck by the fact that when my grandfather died 32 years earlier and my father (then a Reformed minister) preached at his funeral, my father had been younger than I was last year. For some reason my father has never been, in my mind, exactly the same age as me. Of course I’ve seen photographs, as a young man and even as a child, of my father at about the same age that I was, but somehow those photos were never fully real to me until I was old enough to see my own children in them. Why is it that I can grasp the idea of my father being younger than me more easily than the idea of him being my own age?

Whether or not such questions have answers, Céline Sciamma’s exquisite little film Petite Maman exists in the space where the answers would be. Wistful and intimate, this film for all ages covers a few special days in the life of a young girl named Nelly as she and her mother Marion try to cope with the recent death of Nelly’s grandmother, Marion’s mother. It is also about Nelly’s relationship with a girl her own age, also named Marion, whom she meets in the woods near her late grandmother’s house. Nelly and little Marion are played by twin sisters Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz, and the immediate bond the two young girls share as they collaborate on a fort of tree branches and go to Marion’s house for hot cocoa feels at once utterly natural and also hauntingly magical.

Drama, Foreign Language, Motherhood, Timey-Wimey