Petite Solange (2021)

Petite Solange
Director: Axelle Ropert
Writer: Axelle Ropert
Cast: Jade Springer, Léa Drucker, Philippe Katerine, Grégoire Montana, Chloé Astor, Marthe Léon, Léo Ferreira
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 25.10.2021

Content Note: attempted suicide

Solange (Jade Springer) is 13 years old and should be busy with worrying about school and first love. Instead she worries that her parents (Léa Drucker, Philippe Katerine) might be breaking up. Her bigger brother Romain (Grégoire Montana) escapes the tensions at home by going to university. Left alone and in uncertainty, Solange feels adrift and starts to spiral.

Somehow when I read the description of Petite Solange, I thought that this would be a coming of age comedy like many before it, a genre that I generally like. But the film surprised me by its somber tone that captures the devastation that divorce can mean for the children. This is not a comedy, but it is worth seeing.

Solange (Jade Springer) reading from a textbook in school.

Petite Solange starts off lightly enough, so if, like me, you thought you’d see a comedy, the first part of the film won’t immediately dissuade you otherwise. This means, that much like Solange, you begin the story basically under a false premise and the longer things go on, the more you start to question whether the basic rules of the world you thought were in effect, are actually true.

The film remains firmly with Solange and thus we see how alone she is with the tension and the problems that she notices, of course, but that nobody will talk about with her. Her brother leaves her altogether, her mother is too busy with her own grief, her father off into a new relationship. Solange’s bewilderment and her unmooring is exacerbated by the fact that nobody has time for her or just tells her what’s going on, period.

Solange (Jade Springer) looking serious.

Ropert infuses the film and its aesthetics with an equally unmoored feeling. Sometimes I got the feeling that the film was set in the 70s or 80s, but then Solange gives a presentation on Greta Thunberg or uses a smart phone and we are reminded that it takes place today. One would hope that people have learned how to divorce themselves better by now, or at least what children need in that time, but we all know that this isn’t true.

Springer really carries the film with her perfomance that shows just how fragile Solange is and how she grasps at every thread that may keep her world from unraveling completely – only to be disappointed again and again. She’s quite a discovery.

It’s a touching film overall that I’m sure will hit very close to home for people whose parents divorced when they were about that age, and will make the situation transparent even for people who have not experienced it. In the end, Solange isn’t that “petite” anymore – but at what cost?

Solange (Jade Springer) helping her mother (Léa Drucker) make her hair.

Summarizing: sad and strong.

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