LITTLE MOM FILM REVIEW
LITTLE MOM (Little Mama)
Reviewed for Shockya.com and BigAppleReviews.net, linked to Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Directed by: Celine Sciamma
Screenwriter: Celine Scimma
With: Josephine Sanz, Gabrielle Sanz, Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne, Margot Abascal
Screening at: Critics’ link, NYC, 04/07/22
Opening: April 22, 2022
What do you know of your parents’ childhood? Are you curious about their day-to-day affairs besides telling you that they loved pizza, played Monopoly, and met while staying at a beach resort? The story of Céline Sciamma’s Little Mom is almost literally a “little mom”, because through a gentle journey through time, eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) acts both like her mother fifteen years and like herself. The film isn’t made through the usual sci-fi gear involving flashes of light and time machines, but presents itself in a naturalistic way. Few directors other than Céline Sciamma could have achieved this without a hitch, having contributed to such a formidable spectacle as “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, where a painter practices her craft in 18th century Brittany by composing the portrait of a young woman. Even closer to the theme of this film is his “Tomboy”, in which a ten-year-old girl plays the role of a boy.
When Nelly loses her grandmother, she receives her first experience of death and regrets not saying goodbye, even as she greets and says goodbye to female survivors of a nursing home. She is driven by her mother Marion to her grandmother’s house (filmed by Crystel Fournier in a wood outside Paris) where her parents are cleaning up the excavations of the deceased. As Marion returns home almost immediately, Nelly finds herself with her dad (Stéphane Varupenne). Study his relationship with both his parents and you’ll find that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Nelly is a pure delight.
When Nelly meets Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), another eight-year-old girl from the neighborhood, Nelly (again with a deep naturalism) playing in both the past and the present, the audience maybe at first baffled but accepting then easily the imaginative creativity of Sciamma. The two girls laugh, play a board game, laugh again while making pancakes in the morning before Marion goes to the hospital for an operation. Marion must have a lot of imagination herself, not doubting that her new friend is also her mother.
If Marion has any doubts that her friend is both her contemporary and her mother, these are dispelled when Nelly puts her headphones back on to allow her friend to listen to music from the future. (Instead of wasting a minute with such a game, why not tell Marion who is the winner of the fifth race at the Hippodrome Paris Longchamp on March 2, 2021, and whether to invest in Brasserie Cameroun on the Bourse de Paris in 2022?)
Apart from the moment when Nelly and Marion spit out the soup served by Marion’s mother, “Petite Maman” is one of those rare films without conflict. The girls never argue, and Nelly doesn’t have a single argument with her easy-going father and loving mother. Sciamma’s ease in working with young girls puts her this year in the company of Laura Wandel whose “Playground” presents a scenario of bullying in primary school. A charming, easy-going film, thankfully free of the intrusive soundtrack melodies that would undoubtedly plague an American remake of “Little Mama.”
In French with English subtitles.
73 mins. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
History – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+