From the 2016 novel by Leila Slimani Soft song – himself taken from a crime experienced in New York in 2012 – The perfect nanny taps into a very particular kind of middle-class angst. More and more, in order to have that supposedly comfortable and fulfilling life you have worked so hard for, you have to open up your home to cleaning staff and daycares. The harassed Parisian lawyer Myriam (Bekhti) does not want to leave her children alone when she returns to work, and while she is not sure to open her doors to a stranger, she does not want to appear suspicious of that person she pays to enter her home (that would be too rude). Myriam therefore misses the whims and peculiarities of the new nanny Louise (Viard), especially when the aide takes her by her side in her stressed relationship with her stepmother (Renaude). Myriam’s politeness becomes empowering, and what is most disturbing is that she does everything well: it is Louise intrusive and increasingly unstable who crosses the lines. Meanwhile, Miriam’s husband Paul (Reinartz) doesn’t want to say anything because Miriam is happy, even though he’s worried about how this intruder is taking care of their two innocent and vulnerable youngsters.
Unfortunately, The perfect nanny never quite sure if he wants to be a pot or a character study. When it comes to cuckoo drama in the nest, Borleteau avoids entering Oprhan– high gothic style, but does not invoke the sickly innovation of a recent classic of the genre, Jaume Balagueró Sleep well. Instead, she chooses a tone of quiet observation that never quite matches the subject.
It is up to the veteran of French actress Viard to give a little life. With her hair pulled back in a straight ponytail, her dedication to children clearly clings and controls inappropriately, especially when she starts talking to another nanny about her long-term plans for the family. How easily she will fall into the role of the razor-sharp predator around children is an early indicator of her possible malice. Efforts to contextualize her possible sins, and to explain why a middle-aged French woman would accept work recently associated with Arab and North African migrants, never have the emotional or narrative weight they need. A turn into the third act in the big puppet is both inevitable and undeserved, even if that’s when the film finally catches up with Viard’s brittle weirdness.
The perfect nanny is currently available through the Distrib Films initiative whereby streaming rentals can be purchased through virtual box offices for local arthouse cinemas. Choose from:
• Alamo drawer (tickets here)