Cette Maison (2022)

Cette Maison (2022)

A heartbreaking but transcendent dramatic exercise that uses imagination to reckon with a devastating loss

The Very Best



Crime, Drama, Fantasy
Ève Duranceau
75 min


A deeply moving exploration of all the “what ifs” that come with grief

What it's about

Years after her cousin is murdered at 14, director Miryam Charles uses magical realism to re-imagine the past and visualize an alternate future

The take

A harrowing family loss sets off a poetic exploration of grief in this experimental film from Haitian-Canadian filmmaker Miryam Charles. The focus of the movie is Charles’ own cousin, who was found murdered in her Connecticut bedroom in 2008. Rather than let her cousin’s life remain frozen at that point in time, Charles unmoors her film from the cold realities of time and space to suggest new perspectives on the girl’s past and imagine a future that never came. While events like the family’s decision to move to the US are recast as portends of tragedy, there’s also deep generosity in the movie’s ghost story — such as the joyous scenes it depicts from a mother-daughter trip to the family’s home country of Haiti, a trip that never actually took place.

It’s not always easy to discern where or when we’re at in its liberal toggling between time and space, but once Cette Maison establishes its unconventional visual language, everything comes into poignant focus. Given the reality on which it’s based, this is undoubtedly a heartbreaking watch, but the way Charles’ movie evokes the ability of imagination to both deepen and assuage the pain of grief is nothing short of revelatory.

What stands out

The film’s free treatment of time and space recalls another movie about the supernatural bond between mothers and daughters — Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman. Cette Maison employs actors to play cousin Tessa (Schelby Jean-Baptiste) and Tessa’s mother Valeska (Florence Blain Mbaye), and the two have similarly impossibly knowing conversations at impossible moments, like the one in which an agonized Valeska tells her then-unborn daughter she can take her place on the day of the girl’s death. Though the format might be less conventional here, Cette Maison delivers an equally stunning exploration of imagination’s cathartic abilities, the preciousness of young life, the otherworldly power of love, and the infinite possibilities of cinema.


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