Director: Jacques Doillon

There is a great tradition in French cinema of film-makers dealing perceptively and honestly with the experiences of childhood and adolescence. One thinks of such classics as Jean Vigo’s Zero de Conduite, Rene Clement’s Jeux Interdits, Francois Truffaut’s Les Quatre Cents Coups, and the work of Claude Miller, whose Cannes prize-winner La Classe de Neige should be released here later in the year. Less well known but equally important is Jacques Doillon’s contribution to the subject with films like La Drolesse, La Fille de Quinze Ans and now the remarkable Ponette.
This fresh and powerful film provides a searing account of how a little girl approaches life after her mother is tragically killed. Recovering with a broken arm after the car accident that killed her parent, little Ponette (Victoire Thivisol) can barely comprehend what has happened. Her distraught father (Xavier Beauvois) tries to provide some comfort, but he has to go away on business and leaves Ponette in the care of her aunt (Claire Nebout) and her young cousins at their home in the French countryside. When her aunt tells her that her mother is with Jesus, Ponette’s grief focuses on questions about the existence of God and whether He can bring her mother back to life. Convinced that her mother will be resurrected, Ponette talks to her, waits for her and looks for her with growing determination and singlemindedness.
Ponette is distinguished by a truly astonishing performance from Victorie Thivisol, who was only four years old at the time of filming. Fears about the director exploiting such a young performer are unfounded, as confirmed by the psychoanalyst who cared for all the children during filming. Thivisol, it seems, never confused herself with the character of Ponette. She followed Doillon’s detailed script and responded to his patient and sensitive direction to provide this most touching portrait of coping with grief.

Book Tickets