The Nannies [Les femmes du square] — Alliance Française French Film Festival 2023

Review by Michele E. Hawkins.

Angèle (Eye Haidara) uses her talents to sell goods to passersby whom she convinces want things they neither want nor need.  But what can a woman without papers do?  There’s rent, there’s payment to the man running the street scams, and there’s family back in Africa to support.  So, in spite of the ever-present threat of police raids that she and her fellow illegal workers on the streets face, Angèle has little choice but to keep going.

Wassia (Bwanga Pilipili), Angèle’s friend and neighbour, suggests that Angèle can instead get a job as a nanny, if she plays her cards right.  So it is that Angèle comes to work for Hélène (Léa Drucker), who’s going through a difficult time personally and needs someone to care for her ten-year-old son, Arthur (Vidal Arzoni), and her baby.  Angèle soon finds that being a nanny isn’t too bad.  She’s a capable woman, able to turn her hand to most things, and looking after the children and having somewhere to live is a lot better than flogging tat on the streets.

But it’s not long before she becomes aware that the other nannies aren’t being treated fairly by their employers.  Angèle’s intolerance of injustice emerges when she learns that Wassia is being abused by her employer, Claire (Élodie Navarre), and, in her forthright way, Angèle takes action.  That brings her to the attention of a lawyer, Gabin (Marc Zinga), who works for Claire’s husband, with disastrous consequences.  But Angèle, never a quitter, determines to set things right — and, with Arthur as her accomplice, does so delightfully.

With convincing performances all round, telling juxtapositions of poverty and privilege in costuming and sets, and clever, often amusing, twists and turns, The Nannies shines a light on an aspect of society that is often overlooked — the powerlessness of unrecognised refugees in the face of economic mistreatment and denial of workers’ rights.  An intimate portrait of one such person in particular, The Nannies unmasks this common story in a way that leaves a mark.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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