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Contemplating how a train into Manhattan from Philadelphia (about 100mi) takes an hour and a half (OK), but a train from Queens into the City (about 15 mi) also takes an hour and a half. 

Synopsis: A nanny from Senegal works for a family in NYC. She’s saving to bring her own family to the US; supernatural things start to happen. (Streaming on Amazon as of April 2023)

Being a good nanny is not easy. Children have so much energy and need so much care from the caregiver. Thoughts of: I’m hungry… where are my shoes… I feel like going to the park…This book is dumb. Never mind what the nanny thinks, ha ha.  Meanwhile, the child is just trying to live their life: I’ll make cake for lunch… I’ll have nanny drive us to Disney… Time to dye my hair blue…where’s my phone?

Besides the demands of caring for a child, Nanny‘s nanny will have to contend with an influx of supernatural events. Is something out to harm her, or warn her, or is she losing her mind?

In Nanny, Aisha (Anna Diop) is the new nanny for a white bougie couple with a preschool-aged daughter, Rose (Rose Decker). Aisha is from Senegal, living with a relative, and hoping to save as much money as she can in order to bring over her six-year-old son, Lamine.

When Aisha arrives for her first day of work, she is greeted by her employer, Amy (Michelle Monaghan). Amy seems tightly wound and flighty. She is thin as a rail and dressed impeccably in an all-white outfit. We get it, lady.  You have everything so together that you can wear all-white and never get stains from your lunch on your top or a smear of period blood on your skirt.  She introduces her daughter, Rose, to Aisha. The girl seems shy and sweet. Amy awkwardly hugs the nanny goodbye before she heads to work.

This child’s outfit is my inspo for what I’ll wear to see Tay Sway’s Eras tour.

As the days go by, everything is fine between the nanny and the little girl. Aisha takes Rose to the park, teaches her French and makes her lunch. About lunch… Aisha brings her own home-cooked food, while Rose is assigned a prepared lunch from the highly organized fridge. Even the water bottles are lined up & spaced just so. Rose doesn’t like the food her mom wants her to eat. She asks to try some of her nanny’s meal. The girl likes the food that Aisha shares. You just know this is going to come back to bite the nanny.

Aisha is very careful to please Amy, being conscientious with the child and deferential to her employer. Aisha earns some extra money by occasionally staying overnight for work. The first night she does this is for Amy’s husband/Roses’s dad who is coming home from a work trip. (Or what we assume is a work trip.) Amy has planned a surprise party for him with bougie friends in attendance. She puts on a designer gown and, since Aisha will be in the margins, caring for Rose, Amy wants Aisha dressed up too. Of course! This way things will seem more egalitarian, with Aisha as a quasi-guest. It’s squirmy when Amy pulls a dress from her closet and drapes it against Aisha: This shade of red will look just right against your skin.

Oh, but the exotic-icizing of Aisha has just begun. The guests arrive and make small talk as Amy swoons around with  a drink. The hallway door is heard opening and wifey rushes in high heels to greet hubby, Adam (Morgan Spector). But he’s rude as f***. He glowers at her to give him some space, and as he makes his put-out way into the living room, the guests shout “Surprise!” Awkward.

Adam shifts gears quickly and becomes charming and engaged. He even makes nice to Aisha after telling her that he really didn’t know his wife was going to be hiring a nanny. Well, duh, did he think the kid would look after herself when mom goes back to work? “So,” he says” why don’t we look at some of my art?” Methinks that Adam takes a few freelance jobs taking photos in hotspots, so he can tell interesting stories. He lets Aisha know that he understands the Black struggle at home and abroad. She wisely says nothing.

Fortunately, Aisha has some free time from work. She accepts a date from the apartment complex’s concierge, Malik (Sinqua Walls). He’s American-born and has a son about the same age as Aisha’s child. He takes her out for soul food. They flirt and exchange a few confidences. I was a little concerned though, when he urged her to have dessert after she groaned that she was so full. Then! He orders them cheesecake, something that can bust your gut even if you haven’t just had a full meal.

She survives, they have sex (on dangerously full stomachs) and he brings her to meet his grandma, Kathleen (Leslie Uggams). Ms. Uggams is a Tony Award winner (Hallelujah, Baby in 1968) whose long career includes the miniseries Roots and the movie Deadpool. In Nanny, however, she doesn’t have much to do but coo over Aisha and interpret her recent dreams about bad mermaids. In fact, Aisha has been having all sorts of nightmares that involve water. And she even hallucinates that she sees her son while she’s looking after Rose. Does she have a guilt complex? Maybe, but things get a premonition-y feeling when little Rose starts saying spooky things to Aisha. But, I do have to say, the girl’s spooky talk started after Aisha read a book about Anansi. Anansi is a talking spider who tricks hornets. K! Time for bed, Rose!

I was wondering if stress was bringing about Aisha’s visions. The little girl is perfectly nice– but the parents! Adam’s routine doesn’t include work or childcare.  He does go out for meals with Rose and Aisha and then conveniently, runs into attractive women he “knows.” See you guys tomorrow!

Aisha has to pin down Amy just to get paid. Aisha says that she’s not being paid what she’s owed. “Well, huffs Amy, I’m so busy at work!” Then she tries to distract her into forgetting about money by telling her that the old boys’ club exploits her labor. Why doesn’t Aisha concentrate on the sisterhood instead of asking to be paid?

One day, Amy stays home sick, but it seems she’s fed up, not sick. She complains about her luxury apartment to Aisha (over-priced shoebox) and her husband (watch out for him). All this for Aisha while she’s having visions of snakes and bad mermaids. So, yes, Amy is home sick when she manages to stagger out of her bedroom to say ‘hi’ to her daughter and the nanny. What’s this?! What this is, is a White Lady Freakout. All because she sees her daughter  enjoying some jollof rice, an innocent dish from the west coast of Africa that horrifies Amy.

Time is running out for Aisha to make enough money to pay for her son’s airfare. What if a vision attacks her or she gets fired?! The music kept getting scarier– even when nothing scary was happening. And that’s sort of the thing about Nanny… it works better as a drama than a horror story. Maybe I’m just not frightened enough of rice dishes.

Movie Loon’s Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade:   B

Cut to the Chase:  Good drama about class privilege, so-so horror flick. Anna Diop gives a thoughtful performance as the nanny, Aisha.

Humor Highlight:  The mom’s freakout about a little bit of spice in her daughter’s lunch, “Food that is way too spicy for HER TUMMY!”

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