Nanny review – IGN

Nanny in theaters November 23 and in Prime Video December 16.

Something the horror genre excels at is bridging cultures through a fantasy or original fairy tale. For humans, fear is a universal bond and our regional stories and creatures can help define and effectively embody our cultural sphere. Director/writer Nikiato Josso attempts to do just that with Nanny, a contemporary immigration story that centers on a Senegalese single mother, Aicha (Anna Diop), trying to build a new life in New York City. Her quiet anguish over separation from her young son manifests in her daily life in the form of increasingly frequent nightmares and disturbing visions filled with images and creatures from her native culture. While visually arresting and featuring a star-making performance by Diop, Nanny is ultimately a jumble of many ideas that never converge into one brief meditation.

As a relatively new transplant from Senegal to New York City, Aicha lives with her aunt as she begins saving enough money to fly her adorable young son, Lamine (Jalil Camara), to live with her. Hoping to speed up the process, she takes a job as a nanny for a wealthy white couple, Amy and Adam (Michelle Monaghan and Morgan Spector). They have a young child, Rose (Rose Dekker), who Aisha has been assigned to look after in their well-appointed home. Amy is an anxious helicopter parent who has a dossier full of directions, rules, and activities that Aisha must follow to the letter. There are even conclusions about the behavioral problems Rose has, which seem to be made clear by the caring and affectionate kindness that Ayesha brings with her skills as a professional educator.

While Aisha bonds easily with Rose, the job exacerbates the distance that separates her from her son and doesn’t help the problematic issues Amy and Adam bring into her life. Late wages, ill-considered last-minute requests, and demands made by the increasingly volatile Amy seem to lead to water-related nightmares and daylight moments of Aisha’s zoning that become more and more unnerving. Just when she tentatively allows herself to plant a little roots in her new town, by dating a janitor and fellow single parent landlord (Sinqua Walls), she meets his grandmother Kathleen (Leslie Uggams), who tells her about common African folklore and legends relating to water and mermaid-like creatures.

A woman caught between two worlds, Ayesha finds herself metaphorically sinking under the pressures caused by her work, the inconsistent communication at home caused by her flying cousin taking care of Lamen, the dreams that invade her psyche and perhaps her ability to care for Rose. Creative with their camera, Josoo and cinematographer Rina Yang use intimate shots to show the smallness of Ayesha’s new reality combined with the almost cavernous coldness of the house she has to spend most of her time indoors. The apartment has basically been turned into a haunted house, which earns it some real chills and an air of anxiety that effectively permeates the piece.

Nanny excels as a character piece and a showcase for Jusu and Diop’s many talents.


Perhaps most interesting is their refusal to depict Ayesha in the frame, or in most places, as a victim, which is refreshing and really sets the film apart. Yes, she can be sad and frustrated about her place in life. But she’s also shown to be happy with her local family, while being resourceful and straightforward about the kind of people she works for. It’s many things, including a caring mother, an outspoken advocate for herself and Rose, and a beautiful woman who truly charms Malik. Their choice not to underestimate her makes Ayesha’s spells all the more interesting because we know there is an aptitude overwhelmed by something beyond her control.

Unfortunately, when Jusu attempts to distill the disparate parts of Ayesha’s life to a satisfying conclusion, these elements prove too scattered and undeveloped to be combined into a neatly finished idea. And for a film that gives ample space to both the concrete and the metaphysical, the final climax feels very rushed. While you get points for subverting expectations, there’s a rushed pace to finishing it that doesn’t match what has come before. But even with that issue, Nanny excels as a character piece and a showcase for Jusu and Diop’s many talents.

#Nanny #review #IGN

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