Little Miracles: Our Review of ‘Petite Maman’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 06, 2022
Little Miracles: Our Review of ‘Petite Maman’

Perfection CAN exist.

Not in complexity but rather in genuine human simplicity…

In theatres now; Petite Maman lives up to the hyperbole that it has been receiving from festivals, critics and fans all over the world.  It’s undeniably beautiful and quite possibly perfect.

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.

This is a truly beautiful mediation and reflection on life, death and those moments in the aftermath that are hard to appreciate without a little separation.  That’s what this film is for.

Writer/Director Celine Sciamma has given us something that is grounded in the cold hard truth of death and loss but still manages to find some magic without being cloying or hokey about it all.  Assembled in a straight forward “Point A to Point B” type of fashion the mechanics of it all are surprisingly deceptive given the amount of genuine emotion and human nuance we get from the characters in this story.

There are no visual flourishes or dramatic swells of music to convey the emotions that are in play in the moment, rather she lets it all play out with framing, stillness and a sense of sadness and calm.

She allows us to transfix our personal experiences with grief, death and the inheritance of another person’s life on to the characters in the film and that’s why we feel like we can embrace so fully.  It allows for the mother-daughter relationship to hit an unexpected level of simultaneous sadness but also beauty from beginning to ending.

The young twin sisters Josephine and Gabrielle Sanz give fantastic performances as these characters are trying to navigate some fairly complex times in their lives.  No matter your current age, Sciamma directs these two young women to performances that are not only incredibly nuanced but beautiful and entirely relatable no matter your age group or your gender.

While Petite Maman has an undeniably feminine tone, it’s the kind of story that can easily be understood by all.  It allows us the moment to sit with the past and appreciate it through reminiscing and embracing the sadness of having to push on from it, while understanding how we ultimately move on from it.

It’s quite possible that Petite Maman is one of the most beautiful movies about death that has ever been put to film.  It allows for the clarity of the past to shine through with the potential of what Is to come.  It’s an experience to be mourned and celebrated all at the same time and is a paradoxically wry slice of the human condition.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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