Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Still-Life Lives: “Petit Maman” quietly captures a family’s story

“Petit Maman.” Image courtesy of NEON.

Director Céline Sciamma, who gave us “Girlhood” and “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” is back with “Petite Maman,” a soft, assuring look at the strange family bond that crosses the borders of time.

Eight-year-old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) has just lost her grandmother. She and her parents take a trip to clean out her mother’s childhood home—the memories of which prove overwhelming to Nelly’s mother (Nina Meurisse), who suddenly leaves for a few days while the family continues cleaning. The day that she leaves, Nelly goes exploring in the woods near the house and finds a girl who shares her mother’s name (Marion, played by Gabrielle Sanz) building a tree fort in her mother’s old romping grounds. The two quickly bond, and Nelly discovers a time-bending opportunity to be her mother’s friend.

“Petite Maman” is the antithesis of plot-heavy. The story avoids complexity, which is a breath of fresh air in terms of most time travel stories, focusing more on the relationship than the science. It is also a fantastically mature depiction of childhood, as there are only a handful of times in which the two children laugh. The film is sober and quiet, which reflects the topics the kids broach with each other (death, illness, the future, the past), but the tone does take a moment to swallow, especially with how young the two kids are.

Sciamma does a beautiful job of painting this still life, though still adding enough movement to be engaging. The Sanz twins, playing mother and daughter in their youngest forms, bring an obvious chemistry to the table, and the fact that the actors are twins makes it all the more perfect. For that is what the film is about, really—mother and daughter get a chance to feel sisterhood with each other. It’s a beautiful piece with a beautiful concept at its core. Don’t miss “Petite Maman,” playing at Midtown Cinema in May.

Midtown Cinema is located at 250 Reily St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit


May Events At Midtown Cinema

Film Openings
“Petit Maman”
Friday, May 6

Friday, May 13

“Emergency” and “Downton Abbey: A New Era”
Friday, May 20

Down in Front!
Riffs on “Future War” (1997)
Friday, May 6, 9:30ish

“Friday the 13th” (1980)
Friday, May 13, 9:30 p.m.

23rd Annual Moviate Underground Film Festival
May 13-15

Sneak Peek
“Downton Abbey: A New Era”
Wednesday, May 18

3rd in the Burg Movie Night
“Spirited Away” (2001)
Friday, May 20, 9:30 p.m.

“Feeling Asian American”
Documentary premiere w/filmmakers
Saturday, May 21

“Spirited Away” (2001)
Saturday, May 21, 3:30 p.m.


The 2022 Edward S. Finkelstein Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival
May 19 to June 1, online and in-person
Full schedule at

Saturday, May 21
8:45 p.m. “Love and Mazel Tov”

Sunday, May 22
9 a.m.: “Gentleman’s Agreement”
2 p.m.: “Unheard Voices” and “Marry Me However”
4:45 p.m.: “A Lullaby for the Valley”
7 p.m.: “Image of Victory”

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