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“Petite Solange”

Axelle Ropert’s new feature, Petite Solange, is a modernist twist on a coming-of-age story by way of classic melodrama. The title character, played by the pensive and precise Jade Springer, is a studious middle schooler who’s growing up in a close-knit, culturally sophisticated family in Nantes—her father (Philippe Katerine) owns a musical-instrument store, her mother (Léa Drucker) is an actress, and her older brother (Grégoire Montana) is a budding mathematician. The placid flow of Solange’s orderly existence is disrupted by the heated whispers and hushed fury of her parents’ arguments; amid the threat of their separation, her studies, her friendships, and her self-control risk falling apart. Ropert pares the drama to stark, sharply defined moments; she spotlights, in tight closeups and discerning panoramas, the turmoil of Solange’s keen perceptions as they overwhelm her immature yet intense emotions. The action builds to a virtually operatic, dialogue-free sequence, of Solange’s lonely wanderings amid nighttime street life, which puts into images her unspeakable anguish.