Run time: 73 mins
Céline Sciamma follows up Portrait of a Lady on Fire with something far less grand, putting a time-loop spin on the coming-of-age story with this gentle fairy tale.
Joséphine Sanz plays Nelly, the eight-year-old daughter of Marion (Nina Meurisse). Marion’s mother has just died from long-term complications, which Marion herself had to avoid with a painful operation when she was about Nelly’s age. Then Marion and her partner take Nelly on a difficult journey to her late mother’s home, where she grew up, and the memories come flooding back – particularly that of a secret hut she built in the woods adjoining the house.
Playing in the woods Nelly comes across a girl, a spitting image of her, and announces that her name is … Marion. Nelly and Marion’s joyful bond is brightest when they roam free – their mischief unadulterated by a parent’s watchful eye, and fortified by the Sanz siblings’ effortless intimacy.
Petite Maman is enchanting, with potency beyond its whimsical premise. As with the French auteur’s previous films, young women here search for home in other people, and come alive in the absence of authority. (Jack Whiting)