#TIFF21: “PETIT MAMAN” REVIEW
Review by David Baldwin
I did not adore and embrace Portrait of a Lady on Fire as much as the critic and fan communities did back in 2019 (where it screened at TIFF). The visuals were beautiful and sumptuous and the relationship between the leads was raw, intimate and moving. Yet something about it all did not click for me as much as I hoped it did. Rather fortunately, Céline Sciamma is back at TIFF with her follow-up PETITE MAMAN, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.
Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) has just lost her grandmother and is spending time at her mother’s childhood home as her parents clear it out. While they work, Nelly explores the nearby woods and becomes fast friends with Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), a young girl who has more in common with Nelly than either realizes. As their friendship grows, events from the past and present begin to converge in a way neither one could have ever expected.
This tender tale of friendship between young girls is emotionally rich and stunning to watch unfold. While it is inherently a story about grief and loss, Sciamma never lets either element intrude on the core relationship between the two characters. She would rather let that darkness linger in the background as we watch the pair have fun together in the foreground. The pacing is light and breezy, which may prove problematic for some viewers. Others will just be awestruck by the brilliant work from these two young powerhouse performers (who are sisters in real life). I could not help but smile and laugh at what they get up to, using their real life bond and childhood innocence to breathe life into the film around them. It is the kind of truly wonderful film we could use more of right now.
And for all current and future bloated blockbuster Filmmakers, please take note: Sciamma achieves everything she needs to in just under 70 minutes and crafts a complex portrait that most Filmmakers need two plus hours to pull off. Brevity like this is rare and should not be easily dismissed.
PETITE MAMAN screens at TIFF ’21:
Thu, Sep 9 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 9:00 PM
Thu, Sep 9 West Island Open Air Cinema at Ontario Place 9:00 PM
Tue, Sep 14 digital TIFF Bell Lightbox 1:00 PM