Nona and her daughters on Arte: what is Valérie Donzelli’s first series with Miou-Miou worth …

Broadcast over three evenings on Arte, “Nona et ses filles”, a tender and poetic fable about motherhood, features Miou-Miou in a portrait of a sensitive and touching woman facing a trio of actresses in tune.

What is it about ?

Nona, a former sixty-eight, is an independent woman who has always campaigned for women’s rights. After having raised her daughters alone, triplets conceived following a short story, she worked all her life in family planning in the heart of the Goutte d’Or district in Paris. At seventy, her three daughters are now adults, she can finally enjoy life with her lover, André. But when she finds herself five and a half months pregnant, everything collapses …

Nona and her daughters, Thursday 2, 9 and 16 December on Arte and in full on arte.tv

Who is it with?

For her first leading role in a series, Miou-Miou (Larguées) turns out to be surprising in the guise of Elisabeth, alias Nona, free and unattached post-sixty-eight child caught up in late motherhood after having raised her three daughters alone: Manu (Virginie Ledoyen), a stay-at-home mother whose marriage is in decline; Gaby (Clotilde Hesme) sexologist with a problem with intimacy; and finally George (Valérie Donzelli), woman-child who never managed to leave the maternal bosom nor to finish her studies.

Around this clan of women, a university professor named André Breton (yes, like the surrealist poet) played by Michel Vuillermoz (UFOs), a sexy caregiver (Barnaby Metschurat) and a earthy family doctor ( Rüdiger Volger) will try to unravel the mystery of Nona’s pregnancy. But a seasoned scientist played Antoine Reinartz (Sweet song), could well compromise this secret by wanting to make a case study …

Well worth a look ?

Actress, screenwriter and director, Valérie Donzelli has a special place in French auteur cinema. From The Queen of Apples to The War is declared via Notre Dame, his moving and poetic style has blossomed throughout his filmography in barely half a dozen films.

With Nona and her daughters, she turns for the first time to television, and composes for the Arte channel an astonishing family portrait: that of a mother who raised her daughters in a free way and who, when she thought she was finally free from the weight from motherhood to the dawn of their 44 years, finds herself confronted with a pregnancy as inexplicable as it is devastating at an age when she could finally refocus on her own desires.

The 9 x 30 minute format of the series allows its director – who worked on the writing with screenwriter Clémence Madeleine-Perdrillat (also at the helm on the cheerful Mixte) – to exploit with undisguised pleasure recurring aspects of its cinema, like the musical through sung sequences, or warm decorations in small interiors full of details and made of odds and ends in a very theatrical style.

Through this incredible and almost supernatural story (we do not know who the father of Nona’s child is), the series is very moving in what it says about motherhood and the right of women to dispose of their bodies. Ledoyen, Hesme and Donzelli deliver a cheerful choral score in the role of the triplets, each having inherited a male nickname and chosen family, work or study as a refuge.

Nona and her daughters on arte: what is valérie donzelli's first series with miou-miou worth...
Manuel Moutier

Clotilde Hesme (Gaby) and Virginie Ledoyen (Manu)

Their mother’s ordeal will give them the opportunity to strengthen family ties, but also to confront themselves, their desires and their own frustrations. Manu, attracted by one of Nona’s colleagues, sees her certainties about her marriage falter; Gaby, attracted by Paou, fears showing herself to be vulnerable when part of her past suddenly catches up with her; George, still a virgin at 44, refusing penetration out of political conviction; but with Antoine could encourage him to take the plunge.

In this story, the men, although relegated to the background, are not necessarily reduced to simple archetypal figures. Paou, Nona’s German midwife, helps bring the children into the world because he cannot have them himself. Antoine, he sacrificed his private life in the name of research, and dreams of being part of a family. André finally, totally in love with Nona, is ready to make any concessions for her well-being.

Taking as a backdrop a family planning center in the Goutte d’Or district where Nona lives and works, the series explodes the traditional family model through its different characters, and proposes another possible diagram, protean, intergenerational and questioning the gendered standards.

The story’s part of the fantastic, associated with the lightness of Donzelli’s universe and tasty lines, make Nona and her daughters a fable about sorority as unique as it is successful. A compendium of winter sweetness to savor without moderation on Arte.

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