Ponette

I wish I could recommend this 1996 story about a four-year-old girl whose mother dies and the adults and children who provide her with conflicting explanations about what happens after death. Ponette (Victoire Thivisol) struggles to make sense of these ideas and to manage her grief, and the interactions between Thivisol (who was “discovered” when she was three and a half) and the children who play her cousins and preschool classmates are miraculous manipulations of their behavior. Jacques Doillon prepared to write the script by working with preschool nonactors, whom he then cast in the movie; as the director he had the stomach to push these very young children through emotional hoops, but as the writer he took the easy way out, resolving Ponette's soul-wrenching dilemma with an insultingly facile plot twist.

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