‘Nana’ presents eerie fairy tale through eyes of a 4-year-old

The fairy-tale forest of childhood is alive and well in “Nana,” a fictional film that could be mistaken for a hidden-camera documentary. Until you look closely.

“Nana” is the directing debut of photographer Valerie Massadian, and you can see her eye for lighting and composition in every shot. But this movie also lives and breathes in interesting ways.

We are on a farm in rural France. The opening sequence reminds us that life and death sit side by side here, as farmers slaughter a pig.

The act causes no consternation amongst the kids on hand; they live here, have seen this before, and recognize the killing as part of the cycle of their world.

When the next scene has 4-year-old Nana playing with piglets as her father looks on, it’s just another stage in that cycle.

Nana, played by the adorably expressive Kelyna Lecomte, is our focus. We understand what’s going on only at her level. She has a father and a mother, but we don’t see them together, and the mother takes Nana off to what appears to be a remote stone house far from the main farm.

At a certain point, the sad-looking mother stops appearing, and we see Nana, who has kept up a steady stream of chatter throughout, on her own in the house. She mimics the behavior of the grown-ups, and wonders what to do with a dead rabbit she finds in a trap.

You are welcome to infer what you want about the mother’s fate. But in the storybook that Nana’s mother reads to her, there is a hint that perhaps we are watching something that takes place in the realm of the fairy tale.

Certainly Massadian shoots the film to emphasize that this everyday setting can take on the feel of an enchanted place. In certain shots those woods look suspiciously like a realm where child wanderers should scatter bread crumbs to find their way back.

This movie and its immersive approach might have been an academic exercise were it not for the presence of its young actor.

Kelyna Lecomte is so amusing while spouting kidspeak (“I can read,” she blurts out to herself while alone with a book, although we might suspect she’s merely recalling the story from memory), she energizes these slightly eerie scenes with her own personality.

It isn’t too hard to imagine that what we see in the second half of the movie is her projection: a kid’s idea of what it might be like if she could run things alone.

“Nana” (3 stars)

We watch as a 4-year-old girl occupies a remote farmhouse after her mother vanishes. The immersive style might be academic were it not for the adorable personality of Kelyna Lecomte, who chatters throughout the movie’s series of slightly eerie scenes. In French, with English subtitles.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for violence.

Showing: Northwest Film Forum.

More in Life

Leanne Smiciklas, the friendly lady who served customers of her husband’s Old School Barbeque from a schoolbus parked in front of the Reptile Zoo east of Monroe, has died at 64. (Dan Bates / Herald file)
Without her, beloved BBQ hotspot in Monroe can’t go on

Leanne Smiciklas, who ran the now-closed Old School BBQ along Highway 2 with her husband, died.

Taylor Johnston waters a philodendron at her home on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Three guidebooks to help the novice houseplant gardener

Indoor plants are popular again — and we’re not talking about your grandma’s African violets.

Plant of Merit: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ Japanese aralia

What: Fatsia japonica ‘Variegata,’ or variegated Japanese aralia, is an evergreen shrub… Continue reading

Don’t call Justice Brewing owner a gypsy — he’s just ‘homeless’

After an unexpected hardship, owner Nate McLaughlin won’t be moving his brewery to downtown Everett.

A mild December makes for easy winter cleanup in the garden

If you haven’t finished your November gardening tasks, here’s a list of chores to do this month.

Beer of the Week: Justice Brewing’s Outlook F——d, Northeast IPA

The brewery’s new beer with a vulgar name is a tropical IPA that riffs off its Outlook Hazy recipe.

Yummy Banh Mi offers cheap sandwiches with rich flavor

Classic Vietnamese meets fast food at new restaurant in downtown Everett.

Could a law to bring down the mob be used in Weinstein case?

The federal anti-racketeering law was drafted to bring down organized crime but it isn’t limited to it.

This author is throwing a virtual party for book lovers

Jennifer Bardsley is hosting a Facebook get-together for young-adult book authors and readers.

Most Read