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Keller, L.E. (2010). Ponette Written and directed by Jacques Doillon Arrow Releasing, 1996; 92 min.. Fort Da, 16(1):107-110.
(2010). Fort Da, 16(1):107-110
Ponette Written and directed by Jacques Doillon Arrow Releasing, 1996; 92 min.
Reviewed by L. Eileen Keller, Ph.D.
Without the memory there can be no mourning, and without the mourning there can be no memory.
—Money-Kyrle, 1971, p. 104
Ponette is a beautiful and painful film, with a haunting musical accompaniment, that intensifies the feelings of grief evoked by the story of a four-year-old girl who loses her mother in a car accident. The lead actress, Victoire Thivisol, just four herself at the time of filming, lights up the screen with her grief, defense, sadness, and resolution. The plot revolves around Ponette's efforts to come to terms with her mother's absence and death, as she receives the news of her mother's death, attends the funeral, is left by her father at her Aunt Claire's house in the company of her two cousins, and is then sent to boarding school with her cousins. We see Ponette waiting for her mother to come, protecting herself from the disbelief of others, attempting magic to make her mother return, offering gifts, and then pleading with God to ask him to send her mother back. Her belief that her mother will return carries her through the multiple challenges of being left, over and over, as her father leaves her with her aunt, as her aunt delivers her and her cousins to boarding school, as adults try to feed her the cold comfort of mama being in heaven and tell her she is making her mother cry by being sad. The moments when her hopes desert her are devastatingly sad, as Ponette burrows into her bed, or sobs alone in a field, or digs into the dirt of her mother's grave.
The film presents us with the challenging account of the loss of the mother, a loss that we—as well as the adult characters in the film—find extremely difficult to contemplate.
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