• Keith Mathison

Ponette (1996)

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I do not have a separate category on this blog for film recommendations because most of what comes out of Hollywood pushes a worldview promoting the precise opposite of truth, goodness, and beauty. I'm simply not interested in financing their efforts.

I have, however, seen a few films that I do recommend. I mentioned the movie Sophie Scholl in a previous post. Another film I highly recommend is the 1996 French film Ponette. The movie centers on the four-year-old title character Ponette, played by Victoire Thivisol. As the film begins, we learn that Ponette has just lost her mother in an automobile accident that has also left her with a broken arm. Grief-stricken, her father leaves her in the care of her aunt and cousins. The film is a study in the way young children process grief and loss.

To this day, I have yet to see a performance by a child actor that comes anywhere close to what Thivisol accomplished in this film. Most child actors at that age come across at least a little bit stilted and forced. When you watch this film, you would swear Thivisol actually lost her own mother. Some viewers and critics actually raised questions about what the director did to get such a performance out of this child. To the best of my knowledge, there was never any real evidence of wrong-doing.

Be warned. Because of the subject matter of the film, unless you are totally bereft of empathy, you will more than likely shed a tear or two. I've read reviews written by grown men who said they sobbed uncontrollably throughout. If you are prone to cry at sad movies, bring some tissue.

The incredible performance of Thivisol is not the main reason I recommend this film. The main reason I recommend the film is because it forces the viewer to think about the way very young children process the words of adults (and other children), and that is something adults need to consider. Often, we tell young children certain things, and we assume they understood what we said. We later discover that what we said was taken in a way we could never have imagined. If the misunderstood subject matter has to do with their chores, the results may not be a huge problem. If the misunderstood subject matter has to do with the Bible or theology, the stakes are much, much higher. This kind of misunderstanding is precisely what we see in this film.

When Ponette is dropped off to stay with her aunt, her aunt tries to comfort her by telling her about the resurrection of Jesus. As the discussion proceeds, Ponette's aunt explains that Jesus rose from the grave because He loved His disciples, His friends. As Ponette considers this, she comes to a wrong conclusion. In her mind, she reasons as follows: Jesus rose from the grave because He loved His friends. My mother loves me. Therefore, my mother will rise from he grave in a few days to be with me again. When her mother does not rise from the grave in a few days, her grief is that much worse. Her aunt never intended to communicate this idea to her.

Although this film is very sad at times, there are also moments of humor as Ponette, her young cousins, and their classmates think and talk about all manner of things. We learn indirectly of the need for children to learn the principles of logic as soon as possible.

If you can find this film, I encourage you to take the time to watch it. It's a beautiful film, and it will stay with you.