at Sight and Sound:
Petite maman seems an unlikely project for Sciamma, who has tended to be very much a realist director. Yet the film is absolutely of a piece with her previous depictions of female experience at different ages – whether depicting the shifting identities and burgeoning desires of teenagers in her debut Water Lilies (2007) and her breakthrough film Girlhood (2014) or investigating nonconformist gender identity at an earlier age, in her altogether ahead-of-its-time Tomboy (2011). It was 2019’s ambitious Portrait of a Lady on Fire – a lesbian romance set in the 18th century – that confirmed her international auteur renown and that also made her a prominent figurehead in contemporary women’s cinema (even a name emblazoned on T-shirts). But Portrait also marked a shift from conventional realism into a stripped back, imaginative realm of poetic filmmaking, an investigation she pursues further in the concise (72-minute), sparely crafted Petite maman.