Petite Maman is a quiet, gentle film about childhood understanding of grief and mortality. It is about Nelly, who is 8-years-old and has just lost her beloved grandmother. She is very close to her own Mum, Marion, and goes with her to her grandmother’s family home to help clear it out. While playing in the woods nearby, she encounters her own mother, Marion, at 8-years-old, and follows her home to see her grandmother as a young woman.
The magic is very unobtrusive, and accepted readily without comment by Nelly, with a child’s practicality of seeing is believing. The 8-year-old Marion is worried because she is going into hospital soon for an operation, and there is a wordless, inarticulate anxiety for her. Nelly distracts her with play, and Marion comforts Nelly for her loss in the same way.
There is a wealth of unspoken tenderness about the whole film. Of Nelly getting one last chance to fill in a crossword with her grandma, and tell her goodbye properly. Of Marion’s awareness of her own mortality and her mother’s. Of the closeness of mother and daughter playing out in a unique way with them both as kids.
Quietly and understatedly beautiful.