Arguably more about children than for them, Jacques Doillon’s 1996 film explores the already difficult experience of death and loss through tender four-year-old eyes. When Ponette’s mother is killed in a car accident, her father takes her to stay with her aunt and cousins in the country. Away from her familiar home life, the disconsolate Ponette begins to have dreams of her mother coming back to her, and while her devoted Christian aunt, her atheist father, and even a Jewish classmate offer their respective explanations, it is ultimately Ponette’s own tenacious four-year-old faith that brings her mother’s spirit to life. Warning: The underside to this otherwise hopeful story is a portrayal of a child’s suffering that is difficult to watch, at best, and at moments even cruel. Victoire Thivisol’s performace is startlingly real, and may need to be previewed or mediated by careful parents. Although parts may prove disturbing, what the film becomes is an affirmation of spirituality—if not religion—and an invitation to believe in the transcendent nature of parent-child love.

Stacey Snider

Film Info

Title: Ponette (1996)
Country of Origin: France
Running Time: 97 min
Language: French
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Sound Mix: Stereo
Color: Color
Certification: US: Not Rated / Argentina: 13 / Chile: 14 / Portugal: M/12 / Spain: 7
Releasing Company: Arrow Releasing Inc.
Producer: Alain Sarde
Director: Jacques Doillon
Writer: Jacques Doillon
Cinematographer: Caroline Champetier
Designer: Henri Berthon
Editor: Jacpueline Fano
Composer: Philippe Sarde
Genre: Drama