Small type **
by Samuel Theis
French film, 1h35
In his previous film, Party Girl, Camera d’or at Cannes in 2014, Samuel Theis filmed his mother, a cabaret trainer, and immersed us, with him and his family, in an environment and a territory – Forbach on the French-French border. German – both located at the margins of our gaze. He returns there almost eight years later with Petite nature, still in an autobiographical vein but this time falling more clearly within the realm of fiction. That of a 10-year-old boy, brought up in a popular environment, whose desire for social, intellectual and sexual emancipation will crystallize around the figure of his schoolmaster.
With his long hair, his blond curls and his angelic face, Johnny stands out, even physically, in the housing estate where his mother has just moved after yet another separation. A slender child who grew up too quickly, in the midst of men with assumed virility, he already aspires to an unspoken elsewhere when his new teacher, Monsieur Adamski (Antoine Reinartz), is going to open the doors to a future he does not would ever have dared to consider. His gratitude towards this attentive and brilliant man will turn into troubled fascination as the young boy discovers his sexuality. In Johnny, the awakening of desire then merges with his thirst for knowledge and his search for a father figure.
On a theme similar to that evoked in the books of Édouard Louis (End with Eddy Bellegueule) or Didier Eribon (Return to Reims), where the discovery of homosexuality is coupled with a sometimes violent rejection of one’s social condition , Samuel Theis demonstrates delicacy and elegance. There is nothing creepy in this one-way attraction to which the master immediately sets limits. Only confusion on the part of a little boy who intensely lives his difference and only aspires to join a world – the educated middle class – which was forbidden to him until then.
In a film with an asserted naturalism, mixing professional and non-professional actors, thus accentuating the gap between social classes, the young Aliocha Reinert, fascinating with stubborn determination, naturally conveys all the ambiguities of his character.