Nelly (Josephine Sanz) is playing in the woods by her grandmother’s house when she meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz). The two eight year olds are the spitting image of each other and instantly bond spending all their free time together. Nelly is visiting the area as her parents clear out the house after her grandmother passed away. Her despondent mother has mysteriously left, leaving Nelly worried that she won’t come back. Nelly and Marion confide in each other, sharing their fears and sparking each other’s imagination. And as it turns out, they have more in common than meets the eye.
“I was already thinking of you.”Marion
It’s difficult to talk about Petite Maman without revealing the twist. However, the title itself is the biggest spoiler. Directed by Celine Sciamma, this gentle drama is as hopeful as it is melancholic. It explores the complexities of relationships and the fleeting nature of childhood but in a very subtle way.
It’s only 70 minutes long and while that seems short, it’s really the perfect amount of time to tell Nelly and Marion’s story. I like how Sciamma hints at Nelly’s gender expression with a few of the scenes. This film reminded me of Sciamma’s Tomboy which also focuses on a child on a journey of self-discovery. Petite Maman might now wow audiences like Portrait of a Lady on Fire but it will tap into some emotions that lie just beneath the surface.
Petite Maman is part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival’s Special Presentations slate.
Update: Petite Maman will be distributed by Neon.