“Petit Mal” is a film that explores the complexities and emotions of a polyamorous relationship with authenticity and sincerity.
The film follows the lives of three women in a “throuple“, that is, an amorous relationship that involves three people.
Laia, Anto, and Martina are beautiful women who are in love with each other. The film is about how they navigate through the ups and downs of their relationship and its complexities.
Writer, director and star Ruth Caudeli based the film on her real-life experiences but it does feel so much like an autobiography at all. Watching through it, it is just a simple romantic drama unfolding on screen. The story however focuses on the individual struggles of the characters.
For someone who has no idea how a throuple works, this film sort of sums it all up a bit. The golden principle for any kind of relationship seems to apply here as well. There is love and there is jealousy but most importantly there is the willingness to make it work. But is that enough to hold and sustain the relationship?
As complex as this seems, ‘Petit Mal’ tries its best to make it easy and very relatable. They are simply three different people in love with each other. But their love is tested the most when Laia has to travel to the states. Now three becomes two. Martina and Anto and in their own ways struggle with the absence of Laia. And as typical with any relationship, they each start to suspect and form their n theories about what Laia could be up to and who she might be with.
As Martina struggles with a documentary film school project about their lives she has been working on Anto is also burdened with what the next step for her musical career is. But they all commonly miss the third person in their relationship and that seems to affect what they both have for each other.
Does their relationship flourish in her absence, or has she gone along with the life and energy that binds them all together?
With the limited characters and choice of locations, you could easily suggest that this film was made in the pandemic era when they were stuck in isolation. However, it looks and feels much better than something that was made just out of boredom. I believe a lot of that has to do with Ruth Caudeli’s experience as a filmmaker. She also plays the role of Laia in this film.
Ruth Caudeli gives her film a distinctive narration style to help the viewer understand the characters and their story better. The majority of the film is in black and white, depicting down moments in the relationship when Laia is away. Martina and Anto are seen stuck in a gloomy unhappy world as they each deal with the loneliness that they might be feeling with Laia’s absence. And each time there is a flashback or a glimpse of a memory of the good times they have had together, the visuals are in full colour even if it’s just a few seconds. Laia is simply the colour that is drained out of their lives.
Anto is played by Ana Maria Otalora and Martina by Silvia Varon, they each bring a play different levels of emotion and vulnerability to play to make this film work.
As we explore the lives of these ladies, you would notice that there are familiar emotions at play here. These experiences are not that different from those in any other long-term distance relationships. Love does hurt sometimes but it is something that we all need and can’t live without. Also, loneliness and jealousy are constant in relationships.
The film has a slow, laid-back pacing that keeps you wondering if and when things would pick up. You somehow keep expecting a huge switch or an exciting, fast passed, dramatic rise that leads to a deserving climax for the film. But that never happens. There are a few moments however where things get a bit heated up and emotions flared up but nothing overly dramatic to switch or change the tone of the film.
In the end, “Petit Mal” is a decent film about love and its complexities. It might not be your typical love story but it is about love regardless. It is sincere and emotional but most importantly it is a decent film you can watch while away time. You just don’t have to expect too much from it.
I will score this film 6/10.
“Petit Mal” is available for streaming starting on Jan 31, 2023 do check it out.