January 22, 2022

ShowbuzzDaily Sundance 2022 Reviews: “Nanny,” “Good Luck To You, Leo Grande” & “Resurrection”


NANNY (no distrib):  Think Netflix’s Maid, but as a (sort of) horror movie.  Aisha (Anna Diop) is an undocumented Senegalese immigrant in New York who works as a nanny for the daughter of a well-off couple, Amy (Michelle Monaghan) and Adam (Morgan Spector), in order to earn money she can send to her young son and the cousin who takes care of him back home.  Things initially seem to go well, but there are constant stresses both real (Amy often fails to pay Aisha for all the hours she’s worked) and supernatural (Aisha has increasingly intense visions of figures from African folklore).  First-time feature writer-director Nikyatu Jusu establishes Aisha’s situation in both dimensions with great skill, depicting the moments of awkwardness and microaggression between Aisha and her bosses without pushing them into caricature, while using a stylized soundscape (including a score by Bartek Gliniak Tanerelle), cinematography (by Rina Yang) and production design (by Jonathan Guggenheim) to create a dangerous world for her to inhabit.  Jusu’s script builds a powerful level of suspense and even finds room for a few minutes of charming romance between Aisha and the apartment building’s doorman (Sinqua Walls).  The narrative doesn’t quite stick the landing, with some climactic dramatic events that don’t fully deliver the thrills that seem to be promised, and aren’t clear or developed enough to be emotionally satisfying.  Diop’s performance, like the film, balances a sense of delicate control with suggestions of seething emotion within.  Nanny probably isn’t successful enough as a genre exercise to find a mainstream audience, but it’s the kind of film Sundance is meant to feature, a showcase for emerging and underseen talent.

GOOD LUCK TO YOU, LEO GRANDE (no distrib):  Despite its frank sexuality, more than anything else Good Luck To You, Leo Grande feels like the 21st-century version of a Neil Simon play.  It’s not just the “2 people in a room” 5-scene structure or that the room is at a hotel, but the very talkative, frequently quipping neuroses of its heroine Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson, in a role one could easily have imagined played by Lee Grant or Maureen Stapleton in the 1970s).  Nancy is a widowed former schoolteacher who is now seeking the sexual variety she missed during three decades of dull marriage–not to mention her first orgasm.  To that end, she hires Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), so endlessly amiable an escort that it hardly seems like exaggeration when Nancy describes him as a “sex saint.”  As in the better Simon plays, the more time the characters spend together, the more they reveal to each other about their inner lives.   Writer Katy Brand gives Thompson the meatiest role she’s had in a very long while, and it’s fair to say that the actress gives every bit of herself to the performance, to an extent that may surprise some viewers.  McCormack has less to play, but holding his own with Thompson’s force of nature is triumph enough.  Leo Grande more unfortunately resembles Neil Simon in that things start out complicated and end up resolved in predictably tidy ways, and while the script’s empowering depiction of female sexuality is certainly territory Simon never trod, Brand doesn’t do anything to shake up the form itself.  Director Sophie Hyde functions mostly as a first-rate theater director would, staging things smoothly and keeping out of the actors’ way.  Good Luck To You, Leo Grande provides a pleasant stay, distinguished mostly by Thompson’s shine.

RESURRECTION (no distrib):  Andrew Semans’s particularly warped psychological thriller is a showcase for star Rebecca Hall.  She plays Maggie, a successful if tightly wound biotech executive and single mom to Abbie (Grace Kaufman).  Maggie is a mite overprotective, but otherwise she seems to have things under control.  Until, that is, she catches a glimpse of a man (Tim Roth) at an industry panel, at which point she enters into a freak-out mode that steadily mounts to take over her life.  Eventually, in an 8-minute monologue that’s as good a piece of acting as we’ll see all year, Maggie reveals that the man is David, who was at the center of a horrible period of her life 20 years earlier, and whose return can only mean menace.  But is that true?  Paranoid thrillers are normally binary (the festival’s Watcher is a textbook example) :  either the person perceived to be a threat really is, or the person who perceives the threat is delusional.  Resurrection raises the possibility that both can be true and then, in a bravura WTF climactic sequence, it goes farther than that.  All the way through, Semans keeps Hall at the dead center of every sequence, and since we’re only seeing things from her point of view, and as her judgment becomes potentially untrustworthy, the audience never knows exactly where it stands.  Hall delivers a no-holds-barred performance that should impress even those who hate the movie (and there will be plenty), and Roth is reliably sinister, while Kaufman and Michael Esper (as Maggie’s on-and-off lover) provide some glints of normalcy.  Semans artfully ramps up the sense of impending doom with help from Wyatt Garfield’s cinematography (he shot last year’s atmospheric Nine Days) and Ron Dulin’s editing, but the film belongs to Hall, who carries Resurrection to its very strange and alarming destinations.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."