In the historic Sala Truffaut, the first title in competition for the Generator +16 section of the 2023 Giffoni Film Festival was screened: it’s LITTLE ONES, directed by Julie Lerat-Gersant. The protagonist is the young 16-year-old Camille, who is about to become a mother. Due to a family court decision, she is taken to a home for teenage mothers, separating her from her toxic mother to live in a healthier and more peaceful environment for her and the baby. In this place, she will encounter different women in similar situations, like Alison and the social worker Nadine. With her, many conflicts arise, given the authoritative role that Nadine plays within the facility.
The Italian translation of the title, Petites – La Vita Che Vorrei… Per Te (Petites – The Life I Would Want… For You), foreshadows the beating heart of this story, which goes straight to the core of those who have the pleasure of discovering it. The screenplay was conceived and written by the director while conducting a writing workshop at a centre for expectant young women. The French filmmaker portrays Camille’s torments in a very natural way, as if they were not the result of a well-crafted script. Camille also understands the painful past experienced by her mother in a very raw manner. The contrast between the typical adolescence light-heartedness comes into conflict – with the hope to find a possibly stable balance – with the impending realization of becoming a mother. As it should be, the film manages to provide moments to take a breath, lift one’s head and face life’s various difficulties, one step at a time. Camille, in some respects, can be considered a heroine of our times, putting her happiness before that of the child.
At Truffaut Hall, the director Julie Lerat-Gersant, visibly moved to see a room full of attentive young people watching her film, answered questions and reflections from the jury. From the comments received at the microphone, the jurors were impressed by the strong empathy that Camille’s character managed to establish with the audience.
Another interesting question was about Lerat-Gersant’s ability to direct the cast and the children in the film so authentically. Since the young actors – including the newborn Diana, the director’s real-life daughter – couldn’t take any directions, she let them act freely in front of the camera. As for the adults, passion was the driving force behind everything. The synergy built over time among the actors made all of this possible. Moreover, Lerat-Gersant, a theater-trained actress – who plays the head of the home for teenage mothers in the film – wanted to bring a theatrical touch to her work as a film director. Accustomed to being on stage without the possibility of redoing scenes, she decided to apply the same method to the shooting style of LITTLE ONES.
The focal point of the whole story can be traced to the switch that Camille undergoes between the beginning and the end of the film. Initially, the idea of keeping the baby was impossible because she didn’t want to become a mother. However, at some point, her thinking undergoes a reversal. The decision not to keep the child stems from the awareness that she cannot offer him a loving family that can provide for him economically and raise him without emotional problems. Camille’s failure to involve her boyfriend in the decision to keep the baby or not is rooted in the background in which she grew up. A loving yet addiction-troubled mother who never considered her partners, has led Camille to emulate her in every way.