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Movie Review

Release Date: 04/22/22
Genre: Drama/Fantasy

Studio: NEON


"Nelly has just lost her grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother's childhood home. She explores the house and the surrounding woods. One day she meets a girl her same age building a treehouse."


Céline Sciamma captured the attention of the industry and cinephiles everywhere in 2019 with the masterful Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Petite Maman is the directors’ follow-up. While it's not as towering as her previous effort, Petite Maman eclipses a great deal of other children's family film offerings. 


Although Petite Maman is a children's family film, don't be mistaken. It's for adults as much as it is for kids, grappling with loss and mental illness in a tender and informative manner. Confronting difficult topics such as these is usually a tough obstacle to clear, yet Petite Maman leaps over with ease. Joséphine Sanz is fantastic as Nelly, a child whose grandmother has passed away recently as the film opens, with Nelly visiting and saying goodbye to all the elderly people she has met in what looks like an assisted living facility or hospice. It's a heartfelt moment and a revealing introduction to her character. 


After that scene, the rest of the movie takes place at the grandmother's house, where Nelly's parents are clearing it out. Nelly's mother Marion (Nina Meurisse) is taking the loss especially hard and being in her childhood home is tortuous. Nelly is naturally curious about her mother's life growing up in the house, inquiring where the hut that she built as a child was. Nelly's Mother's reaction to this question appears uninterested and lamented as if it's too much to bear to remember her childhood. An important scene that displays how curious, and vital that curiosity can be as a child, a way to connect with a parent while learning about who they were during their youth.  


As Nelly roams around the house and the wooded area that borders the property, the first few days, is when the magic of Petite Maman begins to appear. Nelly meets another girl her age while walking through the woods. The two quickly become friends, spending the remaining days Nelly is at her grandmother's with her newfound friend. It's the formation and connection of this friendship that is truly special to watch unfold. The extraordinary method the movie uses to tell its story and the growth of its characters is what makes it unique and a movie you shouldn't miss.

These moments in the film exemplify the impassioned aspects and touching moments that set it apart from other films that deal with similar topics. Petite Maman’s tenacity to sink you into the perception and processing of a child's mind whilst going through such a difficult period is handled with such meticulosity. Sciamma ensures to keep the camera focused on Nelly throughout her experience, her wonder, and her understanding, a crucial component of the story, proving Sciamma to yet again continue to be a filmmaker to pursue.

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