Four-year-old Victoire Thivisol won the best actress award at the 1996 Venice Festival for the title role, a prize which probably belonged more to writer/director Jacques Doillon. Nevertheless, the jury's decision is understandable: Thivisol represents what is pure and honest in the movie, but one may have doubts about the work as a whole. The film begins shortly after the death of Ponette's mother in a car accident. The girl, her own arm in a sling, has only a limited understanding of what death means. At the funeral, one of her pals places gifts in the coffin; another kisses her gently; a third explains that they place heavy stones on top to keep you down. Called away on business for a few days, Ponette's father (Beauvois) leaves her in the country with her aunt (Nebout) and her cousins, but her loneliness is only intensified. Taking her aunt's words of solace literally, she stands vigil, willing her mother to reappear before her. Doillon is after a sense of mortality from the four-year-old's perspective. The result is touching, but not always convincing.