Twin set: Joséphine & Gabrielle Sanz play mother and daughter in ‘Petite Mamon’.
PETITIE MAMAN **** (72 minutes; subtitled) PG
In a beautiful, deeply touching squib of a film from writer/director Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) a little girl takes up a singularly strange friendship while the house of her recently deceased maternal grandmother is cleared out by her parents.
Wandering into the surrounding woods, Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) comes across Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), a girl who looks very similar to her and who also bears her mother’s name.
Making fast friends with Marion, Nelly soon works out that coincidence has nothing to do with this. An invisible crease in the space-time continuum has brought Nelly together with her mother when she was a little girl.
There are no whizz-bang visual effects in this film, nor is there any talk about such things as the space-time continuum or time travel, with Nelly only mentioning to Marion that she is from the future.
The girls (played by twin sisters) teach each other many thing – about love, about loss, about hope and happiness, but mainly they teach each other about the sheer, unalloyed joy of making pancakes.
One of the long-standing irritations of films with child characters is watching child actors behaving like miniature adults rather than like children.
Not only does Petitie Maman not have this issue, the effortlessly naturalistic performances by the Sanz twins breathe with gleeful authenticity and underscore the celebration of childhood, one of the main themes of the film.
There’s not a lick of pretention in any frame of the film. Sciamma directs with a delicate sensibility, unobtrusive in style and with a love for the everyday nuances that can make small moments so special.
It’s also one of the best films about time-travel, deploying the device not for a VFX-driven sci-fi lark but for a modest fantasy that explores the common movie theme of mother-daughter relationships in a most uncommon manner.
What unspools is a jewel of a film that is very different, emotionally grounded and deeply touching, serving as a very timely reminder to us all about how cinema that touches the heart has everything to do with story and nothing to do with scale.
LOVE IN BRIGHT LANDSCAPES: THE STORY OF DAVID MCCOMB OF THE TRIFFIDS **** (100 minutes) M
Excellent. unremittingly sad documentary tracking the all-too-brief life of Perth-born musician/writer/poet David McComb, front man and creative force behind The Triffids, a band that occupied a unique place in the alternative music scene in Australia and Britain in the 1970s and ’80s.
Testimonials about his talent and non-stop artistic drive pour forth from many friends and collaborators, sketching a vivid and colourful profile of McComb’s undoubted musical brilliance.
Yet the glimmering portrait of the artist is undercut by the film’s unflinching exploration of McComb’s inability to control his demons.
Like so many others before and since, he fell into a tragic pattern of substance abuse and alcoholism that ultimately took him in 1999, a few weeks before his 37th birthday.
While it’s not overtly stated in the film, directed with honesty and finesse by Jonathan Alley, McComb’s story is underscored by a cruel irony, that somebody so talented and distinctive should die in a manner so cliched and banal.