dir: Nikyatu Jusu
Nanny comes at a time where it seems to be “of the moment”, or to put it most horribly, it’s very zeitgeist-y. There have been a string of recent novels about immigrant women working as nannies or au pairs and wanting to murder their precious charges (most notably Leïla Slimani’s Lullaby), but this is the most recent I can think of that shoots for (eventually) straight horror, supernatural or otherwise.
It doesn’t really work, at all, but I still enjoyed watching it. Primarily, it’s a visually strong film, and it stars the luminous Anna Diop, who’s mostly worked in television and is best known, at least by me, for playing Starfire in the Titans series. She’s great, here and elsewhere, but…
I think this film knows what it’s trying to say – the immigrant experience, documented or otherwise, compels many women to leave their families or their kids behind, travel to other countries where they sometimes have to look after the kids of wealthy shitheads. This causes a certain amount of tension. You end up lavishing all the love and care that you have in you, onto someone else’s kid, in order to get the money to send back to the people looking after your kid.
But for some strange reason despite being wealthy these rich fuckers never pay on time. And they make insane demands all the time. And the husband tries to fuck you. And the drunken wife resents you because the kid likes you more, and they feel guilty because they’re away from home working or travelling…
This is rich ground psychologically to plant a lot of dramatic seeds from which could spring the stuff of social commentary and / or nightmares. The flick wants to have its cake and eat it too, and I don’t think it earns that paradox at all. At all. Especially because it goes down a certain track that seems unforgivable when the big “reveal” happens at the end.
Aisha (Anna Diop) is in the States in an undocumented manner, meaning that she can’t work officially, and needs to get by with cash in hand jobs. A (white) family with their one precious Rose (Rose Decker) have all sorts of expectations of Aisha. It’s almost like there’s the feeling of entitlement to her time and presence, because she should be so grateful.
There’s oh so many micro-aggressions, but that’s okay, that’s what we’d expect. All of the nannies seem to be from “other” backgrounds, and they are all at the mercy of employees who see them as the exploitable resource that they are.
Aisha sends money back to Senegal, where her son Lamine is. She facetimes him as often as she can, but that can only go so far. I can’t really see that she has any plan beyond earning as much as she can to send back to Senegal in order to allow for her friend to send her son to her in the States. I’m not sure why this is the plan, but this is the plan.
Her employers are as awful as you imagine they would be. The mum (Michelle Monaghan) of course is a nervy tyrant, who somehow appreciates what Aisha can bring to the table for her daughter (being bilingual, she can teach English and French to Rose), but simultaneously resent the fact that this woman gets to spend way more time with her daughter than she does.
And she’s a workaholic / alcoholic whose photojournalist husband (Morgan Spector) fucks everyone he comes into contact with, except presumably his wife. At least he pays Aisha on time, eh? As well as going in for a kiss when the opportunity presents itself.
Bleh. Boo. I boo what you're doing.