Following a girl’s journey to her mother’s childhood home, French auteur Céline Sciamma’s latest is a tender tale of intergenerational connection.
Céline Sciamma’s TIFF ’19 selection Portrait of a Lady on Fire garnered international acclaim for its sumptuous rendering of queer female desire and the overwhelming power of both truly looking and truly being seen. Sciamma’s follow-up brings the writer-director’s exquisite craft and acute insights into longing to bear on a tale of childhood grief and wonder.
After her grandmother dies, Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) is taken to her mother’s childhood home. While her parents go about cleaning out the house, Nelly explores the surrounding woods. She encounters Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), a girl exactly Nelly’s age and to whom she bears a striking resemblance. The pair become fast friends, constructing a hut together, sharing lunches, and talking over the life transitions both are in the midst of. (Marion is only days away from going to hospital for an operation.) Incrementally, the girls’ eerie similarities yield revelations that merge events of the past with those of the present.
Working once again with cinematographer Claire Mathon and production designer Lionel Brison, Sciamma gently ushers us into a series of hushed, crepuscular spaces where the spectral meets the everyday and time seems to fold in on itself. Drawing lovely, subtle performances from her young stars, Sciamma allows us to see the world through Nelly and Marion’s eyes. The result is a film of tremendous tenderness and sombre beauty that, like all of Sciamma’s films, celebrates the spectrum of feminine connection.