Going through a major loss can be an incredibly difficult thing, and everyone deals with it in their own way. Anger, grief, and denial are all well-known coping mechanisms. My pick this week takes a look at how very young children attempt to understand and deal with a great loss – specifically, the death of a parent.
Ponette, a 4-year-old French girl, survived a recent car wreck relatively unharmed. Her mother, the driver at the time of the wreck, was not so fortunate. The bulk of the film takes the viewer through the process of Ponette truly learning what death is and how to move on with her life. Ponette’s conversations with her father and aunt serve as a way to contrast how people on such differing levels struggle to come to terms with such an event. Her actions and mindset are also largely molded through interactions with her cousins and school friends that are all roughly her age. She clings to any story or idea she comes across, hoping something she tries will give her a way to be with her mother again.
The strength of the film comes from great performances of the children, especially Ponette herself. At times, it is almost as if the film is a documentary showing real children and how they think. Ponette is an intelligent girl who simply doesn’t have the answers she’s looking for. Her interpretations of the answers provided by those around her inevitably lead to more questions. The ending of the film seems a bit strange and can possibly be seen as a cop-out depending on how the viewer chooses to interpret the events, but it does little to harm an otherwise interesting movie. Ponette is certainly worth watching and, if nothing else, will make you wonder what kind of weird stuff you believed and did when you were a child.