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.