In keeping up with some of the international films from around the world, I decided to handpick a French film which was lying in my watchlist for a very long time. The film was Petite Maman and one of the reasons for picking up this film to watch and review was because the film is really short standing at just 72 minutes. After a long day’s work it at times becomes taxing to watch a really long film and then to also pen a review. A quick watch is something that I really appreciate especially when the film isn’t quite heavy too. The film had premiered at the Berlin film festival and it had a bunch of cinephiles really discussing the film. Another interesting bit was that this film was from the director of A Portrait Of A Lady On Fire which was a stellar film. That said does Petite Maman manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Petite Maman follows the story of a nine year old grappling with the grief of losing her grandmother until she meets another girl of her same age near the woods. The story is a unique blend of depression and a sense of meditation surrounding it with a hash of fantasy/time travel. All of it is packaged in this 72 minute film. And the conflict here is real. We have all been privy to losing our near and dear ones and the void which is left behind. I for one did lose my grandmother almost 5 years ago and the amount of grief for me and my mother could not be quantified in words. So instantly there was this relatable factor to the film. The screenplay is just so subtle and gentle that it almost seems like a lullaby. There are no loud emotions in play but just quieter moments here. The dynamics between all characters dealing with grief and depression is nicely touched upon. Soon the fantasy bit begins and the writers do not provide any inkling of whether this is time travel or just a dream. But instead the focus is on the two nine year olds. This for me hit home because often we see the difference in the level of intellect between an adult and a child. So it is often assumed that the child does understand things exactly how an adult does. But whether it truly understands it or not is anyone’s guess. Yet, the things that a child understands and relates to is from its own age group. So suddenly Nelly was the matured child here(and you will get it once you watch the film).
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sparingly used and there is deafening silence to contend with here that is almost meditative. It just helps the viewer to calm down and be prepared for any eventualities in life. The BGM is almost non existential and that makes the drama a lot personal. Celine Sciamma is truly a skillful director. She manages to touch upon so many issues which might be relatable to most of us yet some that we do not wish to address in our daily lives. This was a spellbinding commentary on depression which is much calmer than we would ever imagine!
The performances are wonderfully restrained. Nina Meurisse as La Mere(mother) and Margot Abascal as La Grand-mere(grandmother) are wonderful in their cameos. Gabrielle Sanz as Marion and Josephine Sanz as Nelly are twins in real life and they are just so brilliant here in their respective parts. They truly tug the strings of your heart with rounded and endearing performances that stay with you long after the film is over.
Petite Maman is a gentle yet spellbinding lullaby which is meditative and does its bit to calm you down. Soon out on Mubi India(on 18th Feb ’22) and Highly Recommended.