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The Crack Magazine


Petite Maman

Director: Céline Sciamma

Stars: Joséphine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne, Margot Abascal

Following the sweeping swooning romance of masterpiece ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’, this gentle family drama with fantasy elements initially feels slight, but its small scale and brief, seventy-two minute running time, belie something bittersweet and enchanting.

It opens with a charming sequence in which eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) is being driven by her mother Marion (Meurisse) to their grandmother’s house following her death. Marion is visibly distraught, but Nelly manages to elicit a smile from her mother.

At her grandmother’s house, Marion tells Nelly about a hut she played in as a child. Then her mother leaves overnight leaving Nelly with her laidback dad (Varupenne). While dad is cleaning up, Nelly goes off to explore the woods and comes across another young girl (Gabrielle Sanz) who is remarkably similar in age and appearance to herself, who asks her to help build a wooden shelter. A fantastical connection is discovered which, as children, they casually accept, and they become friends, chatting and playing and visiting each other’s houses.

The vivid autumnal colours invest the story with a suitably fairy-tale quality, while Sciamma, mainly shooting at the eye level of her young protagonists’, demonstrates once more her ability to elicit disarmingly natural performances from her young cast.

David Willoughby

Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm