A little girl walks down a hospital corridor, stopping in every room to exchange brief goodbyes with the patients. Her grandmother passed and Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) is accompanying her parents to help gather her belongings and clean out the family home. That night, Nelly’s mother (Nina Meurisse) puts her daughter to sleep with instructions to look for a black panther at the foot of her bed. The next morning, Nelly awakens with just her father in the house. In the woods, she encounters Marion (Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine’s look-alike sister) dragging timber to build a makeshift fort similar to the one Nelly’s mom built in her youth. Writer-director Céline Sciamma (Girlhood, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) fashions a sensitive fantasy that follows Nelly through a delicately spellbinding, wholly unique mother/daughter bonding experience, the likes of which the cinema has yet to experience. To reveal anything that might spoil the film’s power would be doing my readers a great disservice. Grandma Marks died when I was 5; it was my first encounter with loss. Mom pointed to the night sky assuring me that the first star I saw was grandma. Sure wish she had a copy of Petite Maman to screen for me rather than her cock and bull explanation. (2021) — Scott Marks
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