Tribeca 2022: Petit Mal

Directed by: Ruth Caudeli
Distributed by: Dark Star Pictures

Written by Maria Athayde


“Petit Mal” is the latest feature film by Spanish writer and director Ruth Caudeli, it is the epitome of a movie that is better experienced than described. This semi-autobiographical piece tells the story of a throuple Laia, played by Ruth Caudeli, in her first foray in front of the camera, Marti played by Silvia Varón – also the movie’s editor and Anto played by Ana María Otálora. This movie felt intimate, almost like combing through someone’s photo album and having brief snapshots of their life. The shorthand among the three leads who had previously collaborated on another project called “Leading Ladies,” also written and directed by Caudeli, was palpable during the 90-minute runtime.

Told through a series of short chapters, “Petit Mal” has an extreme minimalist quality. However, it still captures the ecstasy, lulls, and changing dynamics of a relationship. This dynamism starts in chapter one when we are introduced to Laia, Martin, and Anto. Their relationship is bright, playful, vivid, and full of inside jokes. It is evident that they feel at ease and settled into a routine. In later chapters, things start to change. When Laia travels for a project out of town, everything becomes a little duller, and color literally fades away. We are left with black and white images of Marti and Anto as they navigate life without Laia. Marti and Anto take time to adapt to this new dynamic and frequently check in with Laia to see how her project is going. Sprinkled through the later chapters, we see flashes of color when Marti and Anto reminisce about when it was just the three of them. When Laia returns home, color slowly seeps back in.

This movie is compelling. Its use of color to tell the story and capture the mood of a dynamic relationship is rarely portrayed in this way on screen. Overreliance on this technique also works to its detriment. In the future, I will keep my eye out for projects involving the creative team behind “Petit Mal” since they each seem to have unique voices as well as something vital if not entirely new to bring to the table.

“Petit Mal” Trailer

“Petit Mal” was screened as part of the 2022 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

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