Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) just lost her grandmother and now she and her parents (Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne) have traveled to her grandmother’s home, her mother’s childhood home, to empty it and ready it for the sale. Meanwhile Nelly explores the garden and the woods behind the house where she meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) who is building a tree house there. The two girls quickly become friends, but Nelly senses that there is something unusual about the situation.
Petite maman was simply wonderful. The perfect way to end the Viennale for me as it is a beautiful meditation about loss and saying good-bye while keeping the people you love in your heart.
I didn’t really look at the program any more closely than seeing Sciamma’s name and immediately booking a ticket for the film. So I went in with little knowledge about what would happen and I did not anticipate the events of this one at all. But that just made it more magical, if you ask me.
Magical is generally an adjective that fits the film. It conjures up the sense of enchantment that only the best films achieve that take you somewhere else entirely. As the film stays with Nelly completely and Nelly just accepts what happens with a mix of a matter-of-factness and wonder, it’s easy for the audience to do the same. Yes, this happens, no doubt about it, and isn’t it fantastic and wonderful?
Sciamma already proved in Tomboy that she can work well with children, though the protagonists then were older. With Petite maman she outdoes herself. The two Sanz girls are great together, and the film really captures the way children become friends and play with each other.
It’s a beautiful film. Insightful and emotional, it touches on a truth of what it means to be human. I can’t imagine that you won’t be enchanted by it.