When her grandmother passes away suddenly, eight-year-old Nelly is taken by her parents to her grandmother’s house to sort out her belongings. Here she spends time with her father, who is packing up the house ahead of its eventual sale.
One morning, while playing outside, Nelly ventures into the woods which surround the house. Here she meets a young girl called Marion, who looks very much like her.
As the two girls get acquainted with each other, it begins to rain. Seeking shelter from the elements, they head to Marion’s house, where Nelly is surprised to discover it looks exactly like her grandmother’s house.
Over the next few days, Nelly begins to spend time with Marion and her mother. She enjoys their moments together, and grows closer with Marion in the process.
But Nelly doesn’t just believe that Marion is her friend, she is convinced there is much more to the girl than this. Could the two be linked in a surprising way, and could the connection they share help Nelly during her grieving process?
The above blurb is the premise for the French sci-fi fantasy film, Petite Mamon. The movie has recently been released to buy and rent on digital platforms in the UK, and is currently available to stream via MUBI.
Written and directed by Céline Sciamma, Petite Mamon stars Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz, Stéphane Varupenne, and Nina Meurisse. The film offers a powerful look at loss and grief, told through the eyes of a child trying to make sense of it all, and is a superb little picture.
Clocking in at a lean 73-minutes, Petite Mamon is a lovingly crafted film which is both intimate and insightful. It acts as a reminder that life is short, that relationships matter, and that we never get enough time to appreciate those around us.
The vast majority of the story is carried on the shoulders of Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz, who play the roles of Nelly and Marion respectively. They are given the bulk of the movie’s runtime, and both are faultless in their acting and line delivery.
Their innocence, wonder, and sheer ability to be likeable, inquisitive, and playful children, is a real win for the film. They are the heart of the Petite Mamon, as well as the soul, and the backbone.
And both of these young actors are expertly guided by writer/director Céline Sciamma, who brings a light touch to the screen with her film. Sciamma fills her movie with tender moments and subtleties, rather than honking big plot twists, to present a picture which is as whimsical as it is captivating, and as playful as it is meaningful.
While the film may not work for everyone, Petite Mamon is a remarkable picture that will certainly hit home for many. It is very much a thought-provoking piece, which allows for plenty of contemplation post-screening, and will most definitely strike a chord with anyone who has recently experienced a significant loss.