‘Petite Maman’ review: The best family movie you’ll see in a while

Identical twin sisters play a pair of mysterious playmates in Petite Maman, an enchanting film that achieves an emotional depth that eludes many movies twice its length.

Source: ‘Petite Maman’ review: The best family movie you’ll see in a while : NPR

The writer and director Céline Sciamma makes beautiful movies about girls and young women navigating the complexities of gender and sexual identity. You can tell as much from their titles: TomboyGirlhoodPortrait of a Lady on Fire.

Her wonderful new film, Petite Maman, is no less focused on the inner lives of its female characters. But it’s also something of a departure: This is Sciamma’s first work to earn a PG rating, and it’s both the best family movie and the best movie about a family that I’ve seen in some time.

It tells the gently surreal story of Nelly, an 8-year-old girl played by the remarkable young Joséphine Sanz, who has long brown hair and a sharp, perceptive gaze. Nelly’s just lost her maternal grandmother after a long illness. Now, she watches as her parents go about the solemn task of packing up Grandma’s house — the very house where Nelly’s mother, Marion, grew up years earlier. To pass the time, Nelly plays in the woods surrounding the house. It’s there that she meets another 8-year-old girl, who also happens to be named Marion. She’s played by Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine’s identical twin sister.

This eerie encounter naturally raises a lot of questions: Who is Marion, and why does she look so much like Nelly? Is this forest the backdrop for a modern-day fairy tale, or have we slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum? Sciamma is in no hurry to provide the answers. The title Petite Maman — which translates literally as “Little Mom” — provides a bit of a clue. But one of the pleasures of this movie is the way it casually introduces a series of strange events as if there were nothing strange about them at all.

At times the movie feels like a live-action version of Hayao Miyazaki’s anime fantasies like Ponyo or My Neighbor Totoro: full of childlike wonderment, but also very matter-of-fact in its approach to magic. Rather than being puzzled by the situation, Nelly and Marion simply accept it and become fast friends. You accept it, too, mainly because the Sanz sisters have such a sweet and funny rapport onscreen.

Sciamma’s camera follows the girls as they run around the woods, gathering leaves and branches to build a hut. Eventually Marion invites Nelly over to her house, which looks an awful lot like Nelly’s grandmother’s house. There, the girls giggle as they cook up a messy pancake breakfast and act out a hilariously elaborate murder mystery. Few recent movies have so effortlessly captured the joy and creativity of children at play.

Petite Maman itself plays a kind of game with the audience, and you figure out the rules as you watch. You learn to tell the girls apart based on slight differences in hairstyle and the colors that they wear. You also get to know a few of the adult characters hovering on the periphery: At one point, Nelly introduces her father to her new best friend, and if he thinks there’s anything weird about this, he doesn’t show it. Meanwhile, Nelly’s mother — the older Marion — has temporarily left the house, needing some time to herself to grieve her mother’s death.

And without a hint of didacticism, Petite Maman reveals itself as very much a movie about grief, about how a child learns to cope with sudden loss and inevitable change. It’s also about how hard it is to really know who your parents were before they became your parents. But in this movie, Nelly gets the rare chance to see or perhaps imagine her mother as the sweet, sensitive, independent-minded young girl she used to be.

Although Petite Maman is decidedly different from Sciamma’s art-house touchstone Portrait of a Lady on Fire, they’re structured in similar ways: In both films, two female characters are granted a brief, even utopian retreat from the outside world and something mysterious and beautiful transpires. If that’s not enough of an enticement, you should know that Petite Maman runs a tight 72 minutes and achieves an emotional depth that eludes many movies twice its length. It’s funny, sad, full of enchanting possibilities and over far too soon — sort of like childhood itself.

Why “L’Événement” is the most beautiful French film of 2021

Awarded the Golden Lion in Venice, Audrey Diwan’s second film delivers a moving adaptation of the novel, and the story, by Annie Ernaux.

40 years old, Audrey Diwan has already been a journalist at Glamor , editorial director of Stylist , writer, collection director, screenwriter, and finally, director. Until this magnificent Golden Lion unanimously awarded in Venice for L’Événement , his second film, adapted from the book by Annie Ernaux  [ . . . ]

Continue story at Vogue: Why “L’Événement” is the most beautiful French film of 2021

Cécile de France: “We like to dress up and have fun like children”

The actress Cécile de France was recently at the Zurich Film Festival to defend ‘”Lost Illusions”, a film adapted from Balzac’s river story. This historical drama unfolds the disillusioned fate of Lucien de Rubempré, a provincial who moved to Paris to become a writer.

Lucien de Rubempré (formidable Benjamin Voisin) is a young poet unknown in 19th century France. He has high hopes and wants to forge a destiny. He left the family printing press in his native province to try his luck in Paris on the arm of his protectress, Louise de Bargeton (Cécile de France). Soon delivered to himself in the fabulous city, the young man will discover the backstage of a world doomed to the law of profit and pretense.

“Lost Illusions”, a tale in the form of a triptych, was considered by Balzac as a major element of his great work, “The Human Comedy”. Inspired to the writer by his own experience in the field of printing, the book recounts the greatness and glory of his hero before his downfall.

Capitalism, unscrupulous journalists, traitors and mercantilism are strong ingredients of the story that has nothing to envy of the contemporary era. “Balzac was a visionary,” Cécile de France told RTS at the Zurich Film Festival. In fact, social networks are just missing to embody 2021. “But even at the time, we listened to the one who spoke the loudest,” adds Benjamin Voisin, who plays a very convincing Lucien de Rubempré.

The director of the film, Xavier Giannoli (“When I was a singer”, “Marguerite”), shot as close as possible to the places where the story took place as Balzac wrote it. And it feels. The meticulous and personalized costumes down to the smallest detail, the redeveloped streets of Paris in the 1920s, the theaters recreated from scratch, everything contributes to making the film a success in terms of aesthetics and restoring the atmosphere of the time. “We, the actors, are like children. We like to dress up and have fun. During the filming, everything was very probable and it was magical, we were amazed and that obviously helped us to play our characters”, explains Cecile from France.

An initiatory journey

The film was shot in 2019, long before the coronavirus pandemic. “I was lucky to be able to be present on the set every day. It was an extraordinary pleasure to see all these people around me passionate about this project,” says Benjamin Voisin. An initiatory journey from purity to degradation, Xavier Giannoli’s film magnifies its actors, whom he loves passionately. “He seeks beauty in each of us, despite the darkness of the film,” continues Cécile de France.

“Lost Illusions” is served by a five-star cast: Gérard Depardieu, Xavier Dolan, Jeanne Balibar, Vincent Lacoste, the late Jean-François Stévenin and Louis-Do de Lencquesaing appear on the film poster. “Being surrounded by such a band is a great gift for life”, concludes Benjamin Voisin.

Interview by Pierre Philippe Cadert

Web adaptation: Melissa Härtel

“Lost Illusions”, by Xavier Giannoli, to be discovered from October 20 on French-speaking screens.

Film Review: My Donkey, My Lover & I

Antoinette, a school teacher, is looking forward to her long planned summer holidays with her secret lover Vladimir, one of her pupils’ father. When she learns that Vladimir cannot come because his wife organized a surprise trekking in the Cévennes National Park with their daughter and a donkey to carry their load, Antoinette decides to follow their track, by herself, with her own stubborn donkey.

A very beautiful film, both funny and touching, which makes you want to return to France and go hiking in the Cévennes and carrying in its suitcase “Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes” by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Antoinette, a Parisian schoolteacher, has an extra-marital relationship with Vladimir, the father of one of her students. The latter abandons him for the summer holidays to go hiking in the Cévennes with his wife and daughter. Neither one nor two, Antoinette also decides to make “the way of Stevenson” accompanied by Patrick, a recalcitrant donkey. If the beginnings are more than laborious, a beautiful relationship is established between the two protagonists and Patrick even comes to guide Antoinette in her love choices. Laure Calamy, always just as fair, finds the perfect tone and does not give in to cliché or caricature

Le Petit Journal

Review: ‘Our Struggles’ (Nos Batailles)’

Romain Duris is the factory worker struggling to balance his responsibilities

Dir: Guillaume Senez. Belgium-France. 2018. 98mins

Available on Amazon

A hardworking husband and father with solid social convictions and major responsibilities on the floor of a gargantuan dispatching warehouse in provincial France is obliged to recalibrate every corner of his life after an abrupt change at home in Our Struggles (Nos Batailles).

Co-writer/director Guillaume Senez stakes a legitimate claim to his chosen narrative territory

A thoughtfully structured indictment of the creeping precariousness of steady work and exploration of the balancing act of a man suddenly left entirely in charge of his two young children, this modest but convincing film benefits from a fine ensemble cast and a committed central performance by Romain Duris.

Trendy articles praise the concept of “disruption” and bow down before the supposed value that “disruptors” lend to the marketplace, but most people probably have a soft spot for stability in their work and home lives. One such man, Olivier (Duris), is about to get thrown for a loop he could definitely have done without.

There’s not an overabundance of “human” qualities in Agathe (Sarah Le Picard) from Human Resources when she tells Olivier that one of the older workers under his supervision can’t keep up the pace anymore. Olivier defends the man in question, but the employee’s contract isn’t renewed and bad things result. Continue reading “Review: ‘Our Struggles’ (Nos Batailles)’”

Film Review: “My Donkey, My Lover and I”


Laure Calamy and Patrick the donkey steal the show in Caroline Vignal’s funny and original comedy, a work awarded the Cannes Official Selection Label and which is soon to hit cinemas in France

“It this your donkey? Is he giving you a hard time? It’s the same for everyone, you have to learn to get along.” When, on a romantic whim, the protagonist of Caroline Vignal’s My Donkey, My Lover and I – awarded the 73rd Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection Label and distributed in French cinemas by Diaphana from 16 September – decides to embark on a trek for which she is in no way prepared, she has no idea that she’s simultaneously triggering an epic countdown which will lead to her own self-discovery. It’s an initiatory journey set to the tune of a romantic comedy and against vast, magnificent landscapes, but it’s also a hilarious “buddy movie” which unites a woman and a donkey, paints a moving portrait and magnifies the virtues of stripping back to the essentials and getting back to nature (without concealing the complications such a process involves).

“Et je sens la fièvre qui me mord”. Just like in Véronique Sanson’s song Amoureuse, which teacher Antoinette (Laure Calamy) performs, ablaze, before an audience of disconcerted parents at the school’s end of year celebration, our protagonist is in full emotional and sensual bloom, owing to her secret affair with Vladimir (Benjamin Lavernhe), the father of one of her Year 5 students. But their plans for a week of freedom in Paris are brutally upended: Vladimir, his wife (Olivia Côte) and their daughter have changed plans and are now trotting off into the Cévennes region to embark on a hike with a donkey. But never mind! Impulsive Antoinette sets off on their trail (without telling anyone) and on the path walked and described in 1879 by Scottish writer Robert-Louis Stevenson in Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes… On the itinerary are six stages of roughly twenty kilometres a day, with nightly stopovers scheduled in gites with all their communal meals and shared dorms.

Suffice to say, Antoinette causes an immediate stir among the seasoned hikers, especially after swiftly confessing the sentimental reason behind her trip. Her fame grows as the days pass and as the exhausting (but also cruelly funny) hardships mount up behind her, starting with the need to make her partner – the donkey, Patrick – advance. But what will happen if Antoinette’s wish to cross paths with Vladimir (encumbered by his young family) actually comes true?

Carried by the sensational Laure Calamy, who is wonderful in her delivery of a comic-come-pathetic performance whilst also offering up a moving display of bravery in adversity, the film paints a very beautiful portrait of a woman through the mirror of the unexpected bond she slowly forges with Patrick; one which starts off strained given the animal’s contrary nature, but which sees them gradually grow accustomed to one another (with Antoinette telling him a bit about her life, notably her “gift for falling in love with the worst possible guy, at the worst possible time, in the worst possible place”). Together they form a duo which raises a lot of laughs, gracing a storyline which proceeds at the soothing pace of the walk and of the unexpected encounters they experience amidst nigh-on desert-like, breath-taking panoramas. It’s an ideal setting for re-centring oneself and for a feature film as charming as this one.

Source: Review: My Donkey, My Lover and I