VIFF 2016: Pihu

(India)

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      Where the 1996 French drama Ponette depicted a four-year-old girl contending with her mother’s death and the 2004 Japanese feature Nobody Knows portrayed four children carrying on after their mother abandons them, Pihu combines the premises of both those films—and dares to take things even younger.

      In the wake of her birthday party, two-year-old Pihu awakens to find her mother unresponsive. Although the other films elevated the story to touch upon existential issues, what follows in this film doesn’t go beyond a horror narrative featuring the youngest protagonist you’ll ever see: Pihu struggles to take care of herself in a messy apartment as she risks being burned, electrocuted, suffocated, poisoned, injured by slipping or falling, and hurt by all manner of household hazards. The film’s bold concept is intriguing, but by its end it offers little beyond an exercise in viewer anguish, compounded by its manipulative soundtrack and lack of artful restraint. A stressful, painful, difficult watch.

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