Starring: Anna Diop, Michelle Monaghan, Sinqua Walls, Morgan Spector, Rose Decker, and Leslie Uggams
Director: Nikyatu Jusu
As good as Anna Diop is in Nanny (and she is fantastic), the film feels like a missed opportunity. Ultimately, it is its own worst enemy because it presents the viewer with multiple interesting directions the story could go, yet never commits to any of them. Visually, the film is beautiful from the opening credits, but its final act really deflates a story that already requires a lot of patience from the viewer. It's just disappointing. Having said that, I’ll take a rom-com starring Ms. Diop and Sinqua Walls tomorrow. Their chemistry is off the charts.
Despite being completely mismarketed as a horror movie, I understand and respect what Nanny is trying to do. I can’t get into specifics without entering spoiler territory, but the bones of the story have the potential to be interesting and effectively scary while also delivering a commentary on motherhood. However, this movie is the slowest of slow burns, piling unnecessary subplots onto the central tale to the point that it’s mostly a bore. There are several interesting directions it could have gone, but it never goes that way. Not even a couple of great performances and some good-looking cinematography could really hold my interest.
For a quick 90-odd minute movie, Nanny takes its time to figure out what it’s doing. It’s supposed to be a psychological horror (I think), and while Anna Diop does a tremendous job bringing tense emotion to her role, the story crawls at such a lethargic pace that I’m not sure what is causing her anxiety. When the answer finally arrives, there is emotional weight to it, but the journey to get there feels confusing and uninteresting. The movie’s end tries to justify its means, but really, when does that saying ever actually come to fruition?
Nanny is an admirable, character-driven film held together by Anna Diop's strong lead performance. The film is sprinkled with quiet, atmospheric tones throughout to give it a horror vibe, but underneath its surface, it tries too hard to be a slow psychological film (and one that doesn’t quite stick the landing). I was honestly wondering what the hell was going on for half the time because things aren’t fully explored or paid off enough in the end to give a satisfying conclusion to the story. Still, it's a beautifully shot film and a promising debut for writer/director Nikyatu Jusu.
This film was reviewed by Nick and Quentin as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.