Screen Time: 100%
Age: 4 years old
Directed: Jacques Doillon
An extremely captivating movie on how a little girl copes with her mother's death. She withdraws from all the people around her, waiting for her mother to come back. She tries waiting, and when her mother still doesn't appear, tries magic chants, praying to God, and then becoming a child of God, to have some power over Him. All to no avail. But then, when she is in despair, her mother does come back ...
Movie ReviewsThe loss of a loved one, the nature of death, the existence of God, a belief in a hereafter. These are tough issues for anyone. Imagine what they're like for a 4-year-old child.
Actually, you don't have to imagine it; Just go see Ponette, a remarkable French film that addresses the poignant theme with deeply moving sensitivity.
At the heart of the film is emotional power that is nearly beyond belief -- mostly because the portraying actress is 4 years old. Preschool discovery Victoire Thivisol plays the title character. And in the long history of cinematic children -- from Shirley Temple to Macauley Culkin -- I've never see such a convincing and moving performance.
Presumably, credit must also go to writer-director Jacques Doillon -- his handling of Thivisol and other young children in the film demonstrates considerable patience and understanding.
As the film opens, we glimpse Ponette in a hospital bed, where her father is doodling on a cast, freshly placed on her broken arm. The child has been in an automobile accident. Her father also is gently explaining to her that her mother was badly injured and will probably die.
Indeed, by the second scene, the mother has died -- and the child's journey through complex and challenging emotions has begun.
Clearly, this is an incredibly moving motion picture; sensitive viewers will be reaching for handkerchiefs within eight minutes of the opening credits.
For some 90 minutes, we observe Ponette's young life up close, as she looks for answers from her grieving father, from a religious aunt with whom she briefly stays, and from fellow children at her preschool.
The scenes among the children are natural and utterly believable -- as if Doillon's camera was hidden in the children's classrooms, bedrooms and playgrounds. In clumsy attempts to help their obviously distraught young friend, the children offer opinions about life, death, and spirituality that are as blunt and contrary as they are imaginative and offbeat. They only serve to confuse Ponette, as the little girl seeks solace in her dreams and imagination -- and in one long pilgrimage alone to her mother's grave.
Ponette is a marvelously humane, highly reflective film that takes us convincingly into the heart and mind of a grieving child.
That she finds an answer of a sort to her profound questions is heartening for all of us.