Anna Diop shines as an immigrant nanny, but struggles to overcome the demons she sees.
In the new psychological thriller “Nanny,” Anna Diop (“Us,” “Titans”) plays an undocumented Senegalese Immigrant nanny named Aisha, who adapts to life in New York City, while waiting for her little boy Lamine (Jahleel Kamara) to come to the states. In the meantime, she takes care of a little girl named Rose (Rose Decker) in the Upper East Side, while falling for a single father named Malik (Sinqua Walls).
She’s able to teach this little girl French, and somehow, she is better behaved with Aisha than her own parents. And she calls FaceTimes her little boy, very excited to be reunited with him. So, it seems like things could be right with her world.
But this isn’t the plain and simple nanny story moviegoers are used to. I empathize the words “psychological thriller.”Before I explain a bit, let me give you the heads up. Diop shines in the lead role for the ways she presents her character trying to adapt to life in America, but she can’t seem to overcome this overblown screenplay which is all art and less concept. I wanted something daring and original, and I wanted to understand its true nature.
The problems that emerge for this young nanny include Rose’s mother Amy (Michelle Monaghan) having yet to pay her what she is owed, Rose’s father Adam (Morgan Spector) acting unfaithful, and Aisha seeing a number of bizarre images, which is why she visits Malik’s spiritual consultant grandmother Kathleen (Leslie Uggams).
Her American dreams could come to a shattering halt, and she doesn’t need to worry about immigration officers or green cards or anything in this formula. She needs to worry about where she is going, and if she can protect her son from these dark forces.
Some of the fantasies she engages in regard mermaids, one of them pulls her in, while the other one saves her, while others features the shadows of what appears to be spider legs. “Nanny,” the feature debut for short filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu (“Suicide by Sunlight,” “Flowers”), makes those scenes look riveting, and chilling. It intends to make you curious about where they’re heading into, but disappoints you in their choices. You can’t see this film through her eyes. Or maybe you can, and if so, please explain to me.
Besides Diop, credit must also go to Uggams, who provides her role with a certain kind of vibrant complexity, and Spector, who has the nature of what could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. But others like Monaghan and Walls are just so underwritten, that you feel like they could have been given more meaning to their characters. I mean there is a scene when Amy criticizes Aisha for feeding her girl spicy foods, when in actuality, the nanny has been the one doing the shopping and cooking, but there isn’t much else worth caring about.
“Nanny” is a strange and well-acted film, thanks to the leading lady and direction from Jusu. In fact, it has the makings of a strange and well-acted film, but it loses its atmosphere, and has us wondering where all this is going. It should have been given more depth to the story and less on the fantasies. That is if they are really fantasies.
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