Esteemed French filmmaker Céline Sciamma follows her highly successful independent drama Portrait of a Lady on Fire with the relatively scaled down Petite Maman. The film portrays a tragic period of the protagonist Nelly’s life: her grandmother has passed away, and devastated, her mother Marion abruptly leaves the family. While cleaning out her grandmother’s house, Nelly meets a young girl in the woods also named Marion and the two strike up a friendship.
Despite Sciamma’s minimalistic style, she communicates vast amounts of subject matter and life. The audience is brought so close to diegesis that one begins to experience soft levels of déjà vu, as if the moment has occurred in a dream, or even in one’s childhood.
Among the most powerful of the film’s inquisitions, Sciamma acknowledges and subsequently ignores the inherent distance between a child and parent. Nelly and her mother are connected by their grief, but disconnected by their inability to console each other. Sciamma explores how this relationship would change if her audience were able to meet their parents as adolescents, stripped of any relation.
In the process she makes you wonder: would you be friends?