A Stitch in Time – Petite Maman (2022)

As I recovered from illness over the weekend, I chose to be a responsible member of society and not risk spreading that in a movie theater. As a result, I didn’t get to catch anything new this week but it gave me the chance to catch up and talk about a film I saw a few weeks ago. Petite Maman continues to establish Céline Sciamma’s distinct cinematic voice through a story of grief, love, and magic.

Nelly and her mom go through some of her mom’s things in mom’s childhood home.

Nelly is 8-years-old when she loses her grandmother and her parents bring her to help clean out the vacant home where her mother grew up. When Nelly’s mom leaves unannounced, she begins exploring the property and the surrounding woods where she runs into another little girl who is strangely familiar. 

The plot is a little hard to explain with all of the possessives involved, but it’s really more about feeling than plot anyhow. Céline Sciamma really tapped into the beating heart of the idea and casts a magical web with a story that’s really about grief, regret, and catharsis.

Céline Sciamma (photo credit: Gabby Laurent – for Financial Times)

The scope covers a couple of generations of motherhood and how they are more alike than they are different. The plot mechanism serves as a bridge for Nelly to learn about and understand her mother’s childhood. Through that, Nelly gets some much-needed context about the maternal lineage in her family. I don’t think that really does it justice, but imagine what it would be like to get a glimpse of your parents’ childhood right there alongside them. There’s something powerful and special there and it’s especially poignant for me having seen my mom lose her mother and then losing my mother not too long after. 

Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz (Image Credit: Montages Magazine)

Joséphine and Gabrielle Sanz are fantastic in their debut performances. It’s Joséphine as Nelly who has to maneuver a little more adeptly but they are both really good and so cute together. It’s a bit of a weird dynamic, watching them play friends and not siblings, and ultimately it shifts again as the film hits its third gear. 

I really loved this film. It’s wonderfully told and smartly shot using a very minimalist approach. The set dressing has a big role in helping to tell this story adeptly and that’s handled with some very clever techniques that Julien Lacheray put together in the editing room. 

At only 1h 13m long, the film gets quite a bit out of a short runtime by today’s standards. There is something magnetic about the pace and watching that unravel. It’s not so much that what you’re watching is a mystery because the title already lets you in on that secret, but watching the characters discover it is expertly articulated. It’s up there as one of my favorites of 2022 right now. 


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