Petite Maman review – Céline Sciamma’s heartbreakingly hopeful fairytale for all ages | Céline Sciamma

DHas French filmmaker Céline Sciamma ever been wrong? As a writer and director, her “accidental trilogy of youth” culminated in the contemporary urban classic. Childhood (2014), after which he conquered the 18th century world in Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) both almost perfect masterpieces. Now with Little mama She proves to be a master of modern fable, conjuring up a U-certificate gift that goes straight to my list of the best movies ever made for kids of all ages. “What would Miyazaki do?” It was apparently Sciamma’s creative mantra, and you can feel the timeless energy of Studio Ghibli’s best features lurking in his creative decisions. Whether you’re six or 60, this amazingly insightful and heartbreakingly hopeful cinematic poem will pierce your heart, broaden your mind, and brighten your soul, even as you wipe your tears.

When her beloved grandmother dies, eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) worries that she didn’t say goodbye properly, not realizing that the end was so close. In the slightly mysterious house next to the forest where the grandmother lived, the task of cleaning up the past begins. As her mother (Nina Meurisse) and father (Stéphane Varupenne) pack up memories and confront their own personal demons (“I feel like everyone is wondering questions”), Nelly ventures into the autumnal trees, whistling in the wind where her mother wandered once when she was a child.

Here, he meets a girl, Marion, played by Josephine’s real-life twin, Gabrielle Sanz. Marion shares the name of Nelly’s mother and lives in a house that strangely mirrors her grandmother’s. In fact, Marion’s life coincides so closely with the tales Nelly has been told about her mother’s childhood that she comes to a bold conclusion and tells her new friend, “I came from the road behind you. . “

Like Sciamma’s sublime scripted stop-motion animation My zucchini life (2016), Little mama it is short and sweet, but fearlessly deep. A mix of fairy tale, ghost story and rites of passage, this is at heart a cinematic parable about healing intergenerational wounds, about breaking down the barriers that inevitably grow between parents and children. He’s also a brilliant and cheeky “what if?” story, a lower key riff on the crash-bang time travel pyrotechnics of Return to the future.

What’s amazing is the way that Sciamma uses his core presumption to allow characters to talk to each other across large divisions, for children to see the dreams their parents once nurtured and reassure themselves that “you don’t you invented my sadness ”. Oh, to be able to have those conversations in such a wonderfully ordinary environment! What fantastic flight of fantasy could be more exciting, more enriching, more healing? Who needs a DeLorean or flux capacitor when they have is?

Shot in intimately natural tones by cinematographer Claire Mathon, whose recent credits include the current brilliant release. Spencer, Little mama has a tactile and earthy quality that at times reminded me of the underrated weirdness of the Dardenne brothers Lorna’s silence, another film that glides effortlessly between potentially Grimm realities. As with its first functions Lily pads and Tomboy, Sciamma has a keen eye for those moments when childhood and adulthood are confused, with Nelly (who from the beginning appears to be a maternal protector to her mother) playing out adult life with Marion as her mother becomes infantilized upon returning. to his childhood. room, surrounded by his old books and gloomy panther nightmares at the end of the bed.

There is also the sheer joy of a scene where Nelly and Marion make pancakes, which combines the youthful joy of The Florida Project with the bittersweet fantasy of Spielberg’s “perfect day” coda AI: artificial intelligence. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I smiled so much in a movie theater, even behind the protective covering of a mask.

The same as Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Sciamma once again makes scant but occasional use of music, with a song tinged with the 1980s co-written with his regular collaborator Para One (aka Jean-Baptiste de Laubier) accompanying a happy interlude of childhood adventures. surreal, perfectly encapsulating the dreams, aspirations and quietly rebellious spirit of this absolutely mesmerizing little gem.

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