Petite Maman Parent Guide
This French film has a strangely ephemeral feel, telling an odd but intriguing little story.
Parent Movie Review
Following the death of her maternal grandmother, eight-year-old Nelly (Josephine Sanz) and her family go to grandmother’s home to clear out a lifetime’s worth of possessions. Nelly is naturally curious about her mother’s (Nina Meurisse) childhood, but the experience is depressing and difficult for her mother, who abruptly leaves in the middle of the night. Nelly stays behind with her father (Stephane Varupenne), who finishes cleaning up the house while Nelly explores the woods behind the house. There, she meets a young girl who’s working on a little hut. Named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), the girl seems strangely familiar, and a friendship develops quickly. When Marion brings Nelly home for lunch, the reason for the familiarity becomes apparent: Nelly realizes that Marion is a younger version of her own mother.
Exploring loss and sadness from the perspective of a child, Petite Maman is, ironically, not a great choice for children. The film isn’t inappropriate in any conventional sense, but it is perhaps too emotionally subtle and slow-paced for younger viewers. Even with a brisk runtime clocking in barely over an hour, the film spends a lot of time silently observing as its characters think about their lives. It’s interesting, but not exactly exhilarating.
Partially due to that short runtime, the film has a distinctly ephemeral feel, telling a strange, transitory story which relies on the adaptability of children to strangeness. It actually does a very good job at building and maintaining that unusual tone throughout, but whether or not you’ll enjoy the atmosphere is another question.
The film’s biggest problem, for me, is the subdued nature of the child acting. While I’m sure it’s an intentional directing choice, on some occasions it costs the film a measure of emotional immediacy which would have benefited this odd little story. In choosing such a compact narrative, the film shackles itself more than most to the smaller parts of its performances, and by turning the intensity down on those performances, the film as a whole becomes somewhat duller than it needs to be. This isn’t a film with mass appeal, but or adult audiences who enjoy different approaches and different stories, Petite Maman is a surprisingly engaging offering.Directed by Celine Sciamma. Starring Josephine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Stephane Varupenne. Running time: 73 minutes. Theatrical release May 5, 2022. Updated May 5, 2022
Watch the trailer for Petite Maman
Rating & Content Info
Why is Petite Maman rated PG? Petite Maman is rated PG by the MPAA for some thematic elements and brief smoking
Sexual Content: None.
Alcohol / Drug Use: An adult character is briefly seen smoking.
Page last updated May 5, 2022
Petite Maman Parents' GuideWhat do Nelly’s experiences with Marion change about how she sees her mother and grandmother? What role does her father play in their story? How do Nelly’s feelings about her grandmother’s death colour her perception of the home her mother grew up in?
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Another strange story in which a young girl has to confront her perceptions of her mother is Coraline. Child-friendly mother-daughter fun can be found in Freaky Friday, Enola Holmes, Marvelous and the Black Hole, and Turning Red. More adult takes on mother-daughter stories include Lady Bird, The Lost Daughter, and Black Swan.