One-location films are undoubtedly one of the more challenging tasks for any filmmaker to tackle. If the storytelling isn’t captivating and the filmmaking on display lacks engagement, the audience can easily and quickly disconnect from the film. In equal parts, Nikyatu Jusu shows courage by tackling a straightforward yet layered horror premise in an extremely risky environment. There’s much to appreciate in Nanny, but also much to improve. Either way, Jusu proves that she deserves more opportunities to bring her stories to cinematic life.

First of all — independently of how well this film is received — Anna Diop is bound to become a major star. A commanding performance as the lead ‘Aisha’ grabs the viewers from the get-go until the very end. Even when the story isn’t sufficiently interesting, Diop elevates her already fantastic performance and pulls the audience back into the movie. Rina Yang’s impactful cinematography helps place Aisha in the spotlight, by creating images bursting with different colours and lighting contrasts for the actress to shine within.

An eerie atmosphere is well-established precisely due to the film’s camera work and lighting, as well as the enclosed space and creepy sound design. The supernatural elements are visually impressive for such a small production —mostly created without VFX work— but their presence quickly becomes repetitive. Jusu overuses her folklore, to the point where the inclusion damages the overarching pace. Despite having an underlying, emotionally powerful message; the thematics are only truly disclosed at the very end of the runtime. In addition to this, the final revelation is somewhat underwhelming. The unique, deceivingly subtle approach to its commentary on maternal instincts is definitely the most captivating thematic storyline found in Nanny. The romantic subplot is the only thread that didn’t feel necessary or even impactful within the progression of the film, but Diop’s chemistry with Sinqua Walls works as a relief from the creepiness back at the flat. At the end of the day, Nikyatu Jusu shows tremendous skill and braveness by tackling one of the most demanding filmmaking tasks one could possibly confront, while carrying her own unique voice along the way.

Still Courtesy – Topic Studios
Nanny premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as part of the US Dramatic Competition category. The film is currently seeking international distribution.

By Manuel São Bento

A 28-year-old critic with a tremendous passion for film, television, and the art of filmmaking. An unbiased perspective from someone who stopped watching trailers since 2016. Member of GFCA, IFSC, and OFTA. Approved on Banana Meter. Social media: @msbreviews.