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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie is largely about cultural inequity and the cruel imbalance that throws together those with little choice and those with too much choice. Also examines the responsibilities of motherhood.
Positive Role Models
Aisha spends the movie struggling and is a victim of her circumstances. In a supporting role, Malik comes across as kind, thoughtful, caring; his mother is the same, welcoming Aisha into their home and offering her spiritual help.
Offers a thorough, rounded portrayal of both Senegalese immigrants living in New York and Black New Yorkers. The only downside is seeing how much the expats are having to struggle just to raise a little money for their families. The writer-director is a Sierra Leonean American woman. White characters are three-dimensional but also irresponsible and unlikable (one also has a taste for culturally appropriated art).
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Violence & Scariness
Scary images. Bloody wound, blood smear, blood in bathtub water. Child briefly in peril. Death discussed. Lots of scary noises. Nightmares. Character nearly suffocates when a wet sheet appears over her face. Images of drowning. Character grips knife blade in hand, blood drips on floor. Character throws self into water -- possible suicide attempt. A spider lands on a sleeping person's face and enters her mouth. Snake appears in bed. Brief shot of a bloody movie on TV. Woman bites a man's lip when he tries to kiss her. Character slips and falls on wet floor. Arguing. Description of a violent uprising. Violent description of police subduing someone with schizophrenia having a "manic episode."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Topless woman. Kissing. Caressing. Brief shot of two people having sex, one atop the other. Shot of two people spooning after sex. Woman in shower, side view of breast partly visible. Flirting. Woman curled up in tub, naked, but nothing sensitive shown. Married character tries to kiss another woman. Description of a man "impregnating schoolgirls" in Senegal. Jokey dialogue about a man having five children from five different women.
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Infrequent language includes uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "dumb," "thank God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Social drinking at party. A character comes home late from work seeming a little tipsy (she drops her keys).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Nanny is a horror-drama about a woman from Senegal (Anna Diop) who's working as a nanny for a wealthy New York family. She's hoping to raise money to bring her own son over, but strange things start happening. Violence includes scary stuff and spooky noises, dripping blood and blood smears, a child in peril, death, images of drowning, and more. Two characters flirt, kiss, and have (brief) sex; one sits on top of the other, and a woman's bare breasts are visible. Another partial breast is seen while a woman is in the shower. A married character tries to kiss another woman, and there's some sex-related dialogue. Foul language is infrequent but includes few uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Adults drink socially at a party, and a character appears tipsy after returning home late from work. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The feature writing and directing debut of Nikyatu Jusu, this creeper feels like expert filmmaking, with its stark thesis on inequity, its nervy music and soundscape, and its striking performances. Nanny is up front about its situation. Aisha says she misses the good parts about her native Senegal but not the bad parts; apparently they were enough to make her choose the bitterly ironic situation of taking care of another family's child so that she can raise money to get hers back. (Such money cannot be raised in Senegal.) Diop's strong, empathetic performance conveys the pain of this, how every waking moment without her child hurts Aisha. Jusu is so astute as a filmmaker that she even conveys character nuances in Aisha's employers, suggesting their pained relationship, Adam's childishness (and his culturally appropriated African art), and Amy's frayed nerves.
Of course, starting with a solid basis in character makes the scary stuff in Nanny more effective, but Jusu doesn't seem as interested in scaring her audience as she is in simply suggesting the horror that exists in life. Aisha's terrors and visions spring right out of the fabric of her everyday existence. Sometimes they're routine nightmares, but other times, she's just looking in the mirror or testing some bathwater when something terrifying happens. All aspects of the production, from the lighting and colors to the unsettling music and sound design, handily mesh together to create Aisha's world. A too tidy, last-minute ending seems to let viewers off the hook a little too easily, but, on the other hand, it could also be part of the movie's biting tapestry.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.