Petite Maman

Date Shown

7th Dec 2022

This haunting magical film is just the latest success (of so many!) for director and screenwriter Celine Sciamma, who has rightly become an internationally renowned figurehead in contemporary women’s cinema. Her films are intimate, relationship dramas of female experiences at different ages. Her debut ‘Water Lilies’ (2008) follows three 15 year old girls in a synchronised swimming team experiencing friendship, coming of age first love and rivalry in contrasting ways. The follow-up ‘Girlhood’ (2014) was her breakthrough into the mainstream. It is the story of Black teenage girls living in a rough neighbourhood on the Paris outskirts, challenging conceptions of race, gender and class with characters who are generally unrepresented in French cinema. In 2016 she wrote the screenplay for Claude Barras’s animation ‘My Life as a Courgette’ which won acclaim for its emotional tone, relating the back stories of children in an orphanage. The beautiful ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ (2019) followed and was very well received at Cinematheque, concerns the affair between an 18th century aristocrat, and the painter commissioned to paint her portrait.

At this point we arrive at ‘Petite Maman’, the story of 8 year old Nellie, who worries that she didn’t say goodbye properly when her beloved grandmother dies. As her parents spend a few days packing up the woman’s belongings from her strange house in the woods, Nellie wanders off around where her mother played as a child. Here she meets a young girl, the same age as herself and sharing her mother’s name, who lives in a house rather similar to her grandmother’s. This quite profound, time-travelling mix of fairy-tale and a childhood rite of passage journey, owes much to the Japanese anime genre, exploring the themes around overcoming barriers that grow between parents and children, memory and loss. ‘Superb…simple, elegant and very moving’ The Guardian, ‘Sublime…a sight to behold’ The Mirror, ‘Utterly spellbinding’ Mark Kermode.
Winning Best Foreign Language Film at the BAFTAs and the London Film Critics Circle Awards in 2022, ‘Petite Maman’ is the perfect film to experience what Cinematheque has to offer.

Audience Reactions


A: 18,  B: 12,  C: 09,  D: 04,  E: 0.

A: Delightful – beautifully acted (A) A strangely complex & moving little film! (A) Great film (A) Sweet and intriguing. Beautifully acted. (A)
Child actresses were charming. Slight. (A)   Delightful: lovely reflection of mother and daughter relationship. (A)
A charming film reflecting truly authentic relationships. I loved the fairytale element where there is no definitive clarity of what was what! (A)
Has all the inconsequence of childhood belief and action. (A) Great acting (A)
Wonderful! But why do children in the block universe have such odd walks (A) 

B: Charming film. Wonderful how it was going to be resolved. Sound a little obtrusive. (B) Beautiful (B) Enthralling (B)
Great acting , self – indulgent perhaps? (B) Thought provoking! Delicate! Beautiful! (B) Charming! (B)
I love a French film. Always about relationships. Beautiful imaginative story – lovely pace (B) Good idea for a film (B)
Strange but beautiful (B) Showed up by lousy French (B)

C: Different but thought provoking! (C) Enjoyable. (C) Very cleverly done. (C) Interesting (C) Charming! (C) Intriguing! (C)

D: French ideas! (D) No idea what was going on.(D)

IMDB details

Petite Maman | May 6, 2022 (United States) 7.4


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La mère
Le père
La grand-mère
Dame maison de retraite
Dame maison de retraite
Dame maison de retraite

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Countries: FranceLanguages: FrenchBudget: €2,800,000 (estimated)


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