Nanny is a stunning psychological and social horror work that feels incredibly alive.
Published on February 2, 2023
Rating 4 /5
There’s no shortage of class-divided horror films, but few pack as much of a psychological punch as Nanny. While most films of this nature tend to center on a societal aspect of the terror of wealth gaps, this picture goes cerebral to tap into something more. The result is a film that manages to be ruthlessly scary for more than just the wicked whims of the rich or a darker monster lurking in mind.
The film centers around Aisha, an illegal immigrant from Senegal working in New York City. She’s doing her best with what little work she can find to be reunited with her son, who is still living in Senegal with her cousin. To make ends meet, she takes on the duties of a Nanny for a wealthy family in the Upper East Side. Being a mother, Aisha is an exceptional nanny when caring for the chipper and astute Rose. They have fun together in everything from studying languages to bedtime stories. Aisha even speaks to Rose about her culture by giving her a taste of her cooking.
While Rose is incredible, her parents are a mess. The mother, Amy, is a mess of a woman who forgets to pay, is constantly out of the apartment, and gets very defensive about her parenting. The father, Adam, is also not present, and the few times he is there lead to some uncomfortable situations. Both of them constantly forget to pay Aisha and keep giving her excuses that money is tight right now. It’s only with the continual insistence of Aisha that she’s ever able to get paid.
Amid all these problems Aisha has to deal with, she is haunted by her son. She longs to be with him and feels guilty for being a parent to someone else instead of her child. This causes her to become further lost in her mind as the despair bubbles within her. The angering thoughts about how these rich people don’t spend time with their kids and that she has to be a mother figure drives her to near murder in the Upper East Side apartment. It makes her relationships struggle, where even a romantic relationship with the charming Malik may be hard to maintain.
This film hits you like a gut punch with the sadness of Aisha. Without giving too much away, there’s some heavy tragedy present that nearly drives Aisha to the void. One could easily understand her wanting to take that plunge, either through killing herself or murdering the family that has treated her like garbage. And yet she can find something more in this world thanks to the people she connects with. There are also small moments of relatability to make Aisha feel less alone, such as when she meets other immigrant nannies at the park who discuss how white people are too sensitive to spicy food.
Nanny is a stunning psychological and social horror work that feels incredibly alive. It’s a remarkable directorial debut for Nikyatu Jusu, who can masterfully weave a surreal and insightful dose of terror and despair. Keep an eye out to see what she does in the future. This is a sleeper hit of a horror film that shouldn’t be missed.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.