The acclaimed French director has created another gem with this magical story of a young girl coming to terms with her grandmother’s death
Does French film-maker Céline Sciamma ever put a foot wrong? As a writer-director, her “accidental trilogy of youth” climaxed in the contemporary urban classic Girlhood (2014), after which she conquered the world of the 18th century in Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – both near-perfect masterpieces. Now with Petite Maman she proves herself a maestro of the modern fable, conjuring a U-certificate treat that goes straight into my list of the greatest films ever made for children of all ages. “What would Miyazaki do?” was apparently Sciamma’s creative mantra, and you can feel the timeless energy of Studio Ghibli’s finest features haunting her creative decisions. Whether you are six or 60, this astonishingly insightful and heartbreakingly hopeful cinematic poem will pierce your heart, broaden your mind and gladden your soul, even as you wipe away tears.
When her beloved grandmother dies, eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) worries that she didn’t say goodbye properly, not realising that the end was so near. At the ever-so-slightly mysterious house by the woods where Grandma lived, the task begins of clearing away the past. While her mum (Nina Meurisse) and dad (Stéphane Varupenne) pack up memories and face their own personal demons (“I get the feeling everyone is asking themselves questions”), Nelly ventures out among the autumn trees, whistling down the wind where her mother once roamed as a child.