Petit Four

A married couple come to a crossroads when one suspects the other of having an affair with a ghost.

Genre: Drama

Length: 13:45

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4.5 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Kalainithan Kalaichelvan,

Director/s : Kalainithan Kalaichelvan, 

Writer/s : Kalainithan Kalaichelvan, 

Actor/s : Peter Higginson, JoAnn Nordstrom

 

Four's a crowd

The slow pace and sombre mood of Petit Four belies its dark and horrific soul, and the contrast makes for a memorable film.

Wilfred has convinced himself that his ageing wife is communicating with a ghost who is drawing her away from him. He can’t see the ghost, but he can see her eyes. He tries taking photos to prove its existence, but it’s a wasted effort, and when he confronts her, she claims not to know what he’s talking about.

The film is punctuated by beautiful but empty exterior shots that get us out of the all-too comfortably dated house these two old people inhabit. The landscapes, like the stilted, dispassionate dialogue between the couple, distance us from the story, and invite us to analyse what’s really going on. Is the ghost her incipient dementia, perhaps, taking away her mind? Or is the dementia his? Is his fear not of losing his wife, but of losing himself? Or is it a longstanding feeling of inadequacy resurfacing in old age? Or is it even a real ghost?

Director Kalaichelvan’s choice to create this distancing provokes thought, but at the expense of emotional impact, which to this reviewer, seems a shame.

The low-key, almost comical, domestic drama takes us unawares when he sees her dancing happily alone (or with the ghost), and it morphs seamlessly psychological horror.

Peter Higginson and JoAnn Nordstrom are perfect as the gentle old couple. The unobtrusive cinematography and original chamber music work together as his desperation builds. The sense of place is spot on – they could be your grandparents, in a house that was old fashioned when they married half a century ago. We don’t associate such tales with this kind of gentility, and that makes it all the more unsettling.

No screener available