Jhe loneliness of addiction – and the toll it can have on an individual’s psyche and relationships – is intimately explored in Paloma Sermon-Dai’s unpretentious yet poignant documentary. In his small Belgian village, 43-year-old Damien Samedi has been known since childhood as Little Saturday, an endearing nickname that gently reflects his state of arrested development. Having struggled with drug addiction for most of his adult life, Damien tries to move on with therapy and support from his mother, Ysma.
Documentaries often rely on handheld cameras to convey immediacy or intimacy; Little Saturday, fortunately, is a welcome relief. Shot like still tableaux, evoking the style of posed family photos, the daily conversations between mother and son unfold softly on the dinner table or in front of the television. Keeping a respectful distance from its subjects, the film doesn’t sensationalise Damien’s plight, even when glimpses of his heroine habit quietly appear onscreen. Here, the addiction is not treated as a spectacle, but rather as an alienating routine from which Damien struggles to escape.
As Damien talks about his abusive father, Ysma also wonders if, grieving over the death of her sister during her pregnancy, her mental state contributed to her later troubles. Despite these attempts to analyze Damien’s condition, the film also observes the solitary bubble of addiction, which no easy explanation, not even the unconditional love of a mother, can penetrate. The most emotional moments show Damien listening to old phone messages, over which his younger self can be heard. To live in these home recordings and videos is “little Saturday,” the child his mother desperately tried to protect and a state of innocence that Damien aims to return to.