HOW I MET MY MOTHER

February 2022

THERE ARE NO MOTHERS in fairy tales, a genre of orphans whose winding paths, however enchanted, lead to domestic conventionality. Not so in Céline Sciamma’s elliptical and enigmatic Petite maman, about a girl who encounters a stranger she has known since birth and how their incredible attachment twists the asymmetries of motherhood into a new, beguiling shape. Running to a crisp seventy-two minutes, the film begins with eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) bidding au revoir to the elderly residents of a nursing home one by one before arriving at the room of her maternal grandmother, who recently died before she could say goodbye. The girl and her parents, Marion (Nina Meurisse) and a man credited only as “le père” (Stéphane Varupenne), arrange to spend the next couple of days cleaning out Marion’s childhood home, a cabin on the sylvan outskirts of the French director’s native

— Zack Hatfield

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