The two films today explore friendships, and bonding with unexpected parties. In one case, it’s your mother when she was the same age as you, and in the second film, it’s with a dog.
Petite Maman (Video on Demand) – Directed by Céline Sciamma, who gave us the wonderful period gender-drama Portrait of a Lady On Fire, this film comes as a stark departure from that much lauded film. Set in the present time, and with a much smaller scope in which to create her cinema magic, it’s wonderful to note that Sciamma still wields great power in putting forth this more personal story about childhood, grief, family, and mortality. The film opens, tracking 8-year-old Nelly as she says goodbye to the senior patients in a hospital ward/home. We gather that her grandmother has just passed away, and we note that Nelly’s mother is depressed and distracted, much affected by the passing away of her mother.
The twins who are in the Petite Maman cast.
They then proceed to the country home where the Lola lived, and it’s rich with memories. The mother suddenly departs, leaving Nelly with her father. With a matter of factness that’s refreshing and subtle, Nelly encounters a girl, a potential playmate; and she realizes that it’s Marion, her own mother when she was 8 years old. They bond, and gradually, it becomes an avenue for both young girls to better understand what each is going through and how to decipher the world of the adults that surround them. The two girls are played by actual twins; and they’re great at conveying this conceit that the screenplay is offering up to us, the audience. It’s a quiet, meditative film that rewards patience, and the suspension of disbelief – the modern day element of magical realism going a long way in turning this into a precious, little film.
Dog (Video On Demand) – Channing Tatum is the big name attached to this film, and having watched it, you’ll be curious to check if there’s a very personal reason for Tatum doing this film in the first place. Not only does he star in the film, but he’s also co-directing and a co-producer. It’s basically a paint-by-numbers execution of troubled man and even more troubled canine bonding on the road, and finding out they need each other in more ways than one. Lulu is the screen name for the Belgian Malinois whose taking title credit of the film over and above Channing, who plays discharged soldier Jackson Briggs. Briggs suffers from PTSD, and while trying to get reinstated, he’s tasked to bring a military dog to the funeral of its master – a comrade of Briggs.
A very expected but charming ‘Aw Shucks’ humor is created and given the dog can’t suddenly speak, it’s allows for Channing to do a lot of speaking aloud, and being prescient enough to comment on it and wondering why he’s even trying to carry on a conversation with a dog. Lulu has the most expressive of dark brown eyes, and when Lulu takes center stage, there’s actually something good happening with the film, and you can understand why it did fairly well (given its budget) when it opened in theaters in the USA two months ago. Channing has always shown great talent in movement and keeping us interested even when there isn’t any dialogue going on. He uses this excellently in the film, and you’ll wonder why there wasn’t more effort taken with the screenplay. It’s a fun, competent film, just don’t expect much.