Review: Perfect Nanny
- Karin Viard delivers an exceptional and vertiginous performance in Lucie Borleteau’s adaptation of Leïla Slimani’s novel, which won the Goncourt prize in 2016
“I can’t breathe. Since their birth, I’m afraid of everything, and most of all that they might die”. For a woman, the irruption of children in everyday life is simultaneously a source of joy and of anxiety, and calls for a new balance in one’s life as an individual, as a couple, but also as a family. Such is the state of mind of Myriam (Leïla Bekhti), a young Parisian lawyer trying to return to work in order to get out of the spiral of diapers, strollers, kindergarten drop-offs and pick-ups, washing-machine, meal preparations and restless nights that she’s been plunged into by her two children, Mila (five) and Adam (11 months). A spiral which has much less of an impact on her partner, Paul (Antoine Reinartz), music producer. In a word, it is time to find a babysitter and, after a long series of interviews, the seemingly perfect candidate walks through the door: Louise (Karin Viard), the key character in Lucie Borleteau’s Perfect Nanny [+see also:
film profile], released today in French cinemas by StudioCanal. But appearances can be deceiving, even dangerous…
Adapted by the director together with Jérémie Elkaïm and Maïwenn from the eponymous novel by Leïla Slimani, winner of the Goncourt prize in 2016, the film offers a true pedestal to Karin Viard who seizes with formidable mastery this role of a disturbed nanny whose mask of perfection gradually cracks. A threat which the parents take an infinitely long time to notice, their lives being made so much easier by this hyper professional, obliging, extremely punctual and available employee, a cleaning maniac and excellent cook who is friendly and at ease with the children. Practically an honorary member of the family, she joins them on holiday in Formentera and is easily forgiven for her sparks of excessive anger — which are, in reality, alarm signals for the severe depression of this widow, who lives very far away in a poor neighbourhood of Paris and travels long hours on public transport every day to come to work. Little by little, first in secret then in the presence of the children, manipulating the eldest in the secret hope that its parents would have a third child, the nanny starts to go off-track…
Besides the extraordinary performance from Karin Viard (who had acquired the rights of the novel herself, which shows just how well she knew that the role would fit her like a glove), sufficiently nuanced to elicit real empathy and a minimum of kindness towards a character who could easily be reduced to a pure psychopath, and which offers several memorable sequences (the tigress, the madness unleashed in the deserted flat of the bosses, going potty under the astonished eyes of the children), Perfect Nanny plays the card of dramatic suspense to the point where it comes close to the horror film. Carried by Pierre Desprats’ score, the overall project is nevertheless let down by the characters of parents who stretch credibility, both in terms of the on-screen chemistry of the actors and regarding their lack of caution (or their excessive trust) towards the babysitter. Completely hypnotised by the nanny, they perfectly embody a film dominated by an actress too powerful for them, and perhaps for the young director too (this is only her second feature, after Fidelio: Alice's Journey [+see also:
interview: Lucie Borleteau
film profile]) who picked up the project after a previous filmmaker left it, and who here signs a film torn between genre and author cinema, which does not make it any less attractive as a whole.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.