Movie Review: Petite Maman

Eight-year-old Nelly’s (Joséphine Sanz) maternal grandmother, whom she is named after, has just passed away and her parents have taken her to her mother Marion’s (Nina Meurisse) childhood home to clear it out. Marion is having trouble coping with the loss of her own mother, and so returns home in the middle of the night, leaving Nelly in the care of her father (Stéphane Varupenne). While he is busy packing up the house, Nelly heads into the woods to play and encounters a girl her own age, also named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), who enlists her help in building a hut out of fallen logs, something Nelly’s mother had done in the same place when she was a child. A sudden rainstorm strikes and Marion brings Nelly to her home, which seems like a near total replica of her grandmother’s, where she meets Marion’s mother Nelly (Margo Abascal). This leads Nelly to run back home, unnerved by the realization that she must have somehow met past versions of her mother and grandmother. As she tries to accept what might be happening, she still heads back out into the woods the next day in order to see them again and quickly becomes friends with Marion.

Writer and director Céline Sciamma has crafted a quietly powerful ode to familial bonds that features some of the most memorably moving moments in cinema this year. The slow pace and painterly framing allow the viewer to luxuriate in the simple beauty of ordinary moments. As the nature of what appears to be happening becomes apparent to the audience and to the two young girls, each moment of joy and tenderness they share becomes even more affecting, all building to a final sequence of scenes that is devastatingly beautiful, poignant, and utterly unforgettable. The love between a parent and a child is rarely examined as thoughtfully as it is in this mini-masterpiece that deserves to be seen by as many mothers and their children as possible. ★★★★★

rated pg for some thematic elements and brief smoking.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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