Little Ones (2022) Locarno Film Festival 2022

August 7th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Julie Lerat-Gersant; Cast: Pili Groyne, Romane Bohringer, Victoire du Bois, Lucie Charles-Alfred, Suzanne Roy-Lerat, Bilel Chegrani; France 2022, 90 min.

A passionate portrait of teenage pregnancy and parental neglect from first time French filmmaker Julie Learn-Gersant who charts the rollercoaster of anxiety, mixed emotions and shifting alliances for 16-year-old Camille.

Motherhood is a challenging time for everyone. Especially when the baby is unplanned and not necessarily what Camille wants at the age of sixteen. A botched attempt at an abortion sees her heading to Casualty at Cherbourg hospital, along with her mother Clo (du Bois). Pili Groyne is stunning in the main role, a bundle of nerves and neuroses – and for good reason – later the judge will sit down with Clo and tell her, in no uncertain terms, that she has put her daughter’s life at risk.

Camille is adamant about not wanting to keep the baby: “I won’t let it ruin my life”. So in she goes to a special home for pregnant teenagers where Nadine (Bohringer) will be her counsellor. Camille is warned by the girls: “Nadine is on your back, and Salim is her dog”. Four months into the pregnancy Camille still indulges her passion for rollerblading, but Nadine gives her a word of warning. Medhi (Chegrani) her boyfriend is an apprentice seaman, and no more able to cope than Camille. He has managed to put together the money for an abortion in Holland but Camille is resigned to going through with the pregnancy and will give the baby up for adoption.

Later over dinner in a restaurant, Clo passes herself off to her lover Fred as Camille’s sister. In a sad case of history repeating itself, Camille will later find out that her that her mother gave her up for adoption but came back later to claim her – after she had spent six months with foster parents. In the home, Camille makes friends with Alison (Alfred), whose daughter Diana (Roy-Lerat) has asthma – not helped by her mother’s smoking.

Subsequently, Diana is put into care, despite Alison’s protests. A catalogue of disasters follows but Camille still insists her child will be offered to “any bitch who wants her”. Her new friend Laura tells her that she is just like a kangaroo, abandoning her offspring when the going gets tough. ¬†With her term nearly over, Camille is asked to write a letter to her by way of background for the future carers.

DoP Virginie Saint-Martin captures the volatile ambience with a lively, handheld camera in intimate close-ups, and sensitive long shots with the rollerblading Camille. The seaside location adds turbulence but also tranquility to a film that reflect in the emotional ups and downs of its hard-edged contemporary characters who seem to care about nothing but themselves. AS

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