The Perfect Nanny

The Perfect Nanny

2020, NR, 100 min. Directed by Lucie Borleteau. Starring Karin Viard, Leïla Bekhti, Antoine Reinartz, Assya Da Silva, Noëlle Renaude.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 27, 2020

Based on Leila Slimani's 2016 novel Chanson Douce – itself drawn from a true-life crime in New York in 2012 – The Perfect Nanny taps into a very particular kind of middle-class angst. Increasingly, to have that supposedly comfortable and fulfilled life for which you have worked so hard requires opening your home to cleaning staff and child care. Harried Parisian lawyer Myriam (Bekhti) doesn't want to leave her kids alone when she goes back to work, and while she's unsure of opening her doors to a stranger, she doesn't want to seem suspicious of this person she is paying to come into her home (that would be too rude). So Myriam overlooks the quirks and idiosyncrasies of new nanny Louise (Viard), especially when the help takes her side in her stressed relationship with her mother-in-law (Renaude). Myriam's politeness becomes enabling, and what's most disturbing is that she does everything right: it's the intrusive and increasingly unstable Louise who is crossing lines. Meanwhile Myriam's husband Paul (Reinartz) doesn't want to say anything because Myriam's happy, even as he has his concerns about how this intruder is looking after their two innocent and vulnerable youngsters.

Unfortunately, The Perfect Nanny never quite knows whether it wants to be a potboiler or a character study. When it comes to cuckoo-in-the-nest drama, Borleteau avoids going into Oprhan-style high Gothic, but doesn't invoke the sickly innovation of a recent classic of the genre, Jaume Balagueró's Sleep Tight. Instead, she picks a tone of low-key observation that never quite fits with the subject matter.

It's left to veteran French character actress Viard to provide a little life. With her hair pulled back into a straight ponytail, her dedication to the children is clearly inappropriately clinging and controlling, especially when she starts telling another nanny about her long-term plans for the family. The way she'll easily drop into playing the sharp-toothed predator around the kids is an early indicator of her eventual malevolence. Efforts to contextualize her eventual sins, and to explain why a middle-aged white French woman would take on a job that recently become associated with Arab and North African migrants, never have the emotional or narrative heft that they need. A third-act swing into grand guignol is both inevitable and yet unearned, even if it's when the film finally catches up with Viard's brittle weirdness.

The Perfect Nanny is currently available through Distrib Films' initiative whereby streaming rentals can be bought through virtual ticket booths for local art house cinemas. Choose from:
• Alamo Drafthouse (tickets here)

Showtimes

Alamo Drafthouse Village

2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030, www.drafthouse.com/austin/theater/village

Tuesday matinee Baby Day shows (first show of the day) are intended for parents and their children younger than 6. Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Thu., May 28

4:00am

Fri., May 29

4:00am

Sat., May 30

4:00am

Sun., May 31

4:00am

Mon., June 1

4:00am

Tue., June 2

4:00am

Wed., June 3

4:00am

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Karin Viard Films
Potiche
Catherine Deneuve stars in this French comedy set in 1977 about a trophy wife.

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 22, 2011

Paris
Paris, from the French director of When the Cat's Away, follows a half-dozen-plus Parisians and their interconnectedness.

Kimberley Jones, Oct. 9, 2009

More by Richard Whittaker
With Theatres Closed, Austinites Create Their Own Backyard Cinemas
With Theatres Closed, Austinites Create Their Own Backyard Cinemas
Get a big-screen experience for your small group

May 29, 2020

Paramount’s (Late) Summer Classic Film Series
Paramount’s (Late) Summer Classic Film Series
Here's looking at you ... eventually

May 29, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Perfect Nanny, Lucie Borleteau, Karin Viard, Leïla Bekhti, Antoine Reinartz, Assya Da Silva, Noëlle Renaude

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle