Nana: Film Review

Haunting visuals and a startlingly naturalistic performance by its young star are the primary virtues of this largely narrative-free drama.

Valerie Massadian's debut feature is an impressionistic portrait of a four-year-old child left to fend for herself.

A four-year-old girl’s solitary existence in a remote, rural French region is depicted with a documentary-like rigor in Nana, Valerie Massadian’s minimalist feature debut that was an award winner at the Locarno Film Festival. The title character, played with startling naturalism by Kelyna Lecomte, essentially becomes a vehicle onto which viewers can project their own emotions. The uncompromising nature of the environment is clearly conveyed in the opening scene, depicting the brutal slaughter of a pig. It’s a naturally frequent occurrence at the farm where Nana lives with her grandfather (Alain Sabras) and emotionally intense mother (Marie Delmas)

Shortly into the proceedings the mother mysteriously disappears, leaving her child to largely fend for herself. The camera takes a dispassionate view as it chronicles the largely improvised behavior of its young protagonist, who displays quite the potty mouth when playing with her toys.

Pretty much devoid of conventional narrative, the film presents an alternately amusing and disturbing view of childhood innocence that somehow manages to flower amidst an atmosphere of physical and emotional violence. Observing adorable piglets bustling all around her, Nana happily if ominously points out to her grandfather, “They are little roasts.”

But for all the impressive ease with which the filmmaker handles her tyke star, Nana never quite manages to achieve the thematic resonance to which it aspires. Its languorous rhythms quickly take on a monotonous air, with the scant 68-minute running time feeling far longer. Director Massadian’s extensive experience in the art of photography is not only manifest in her film’s haunting visuals but also in its unfortunately static quality.

Production: Gaijin.

Cast: Kelyna Lecomte, Alain Sabras, Marie Delmas.

Director/screenwriter: Valerie Massadian.

Producer: Sophie Erbs.

Directors of photography: Valerie Massadian, Leo Hinstin.

Editors: Dominique Auvray, Valerie Massadian.