Àma Gloria review – amazing performances in sensitive drama about a kid and her nanny

By rights Louise Mauroy-Panzani should be at the front of the queue for every acting award going for her role in this gorgeous French drama. Just six years old at the time of filming (the casting director spotted her in Paris arguing with her brother in the street), she gives a performance so open and natural, it has an almost transparent quality. You feel what her character Cléo feels as her world is turned upside down over one summer. Equally brilliant is another first-time actor, Ilça Moreno Zego, a real-life nanny playing Gloria, who has taken care of Cléo since she was tiny and is now moving back to Cape Verde.

The opening scenes showing us Cléo’s life with Gloria are beautifully detailed. Cléo’s mum died when she was a baby, and she lives with her dad (Arnaud Rebotini), who is gentle but remote, still reeling from grief. It’s Gloria who is the sun in Cleo’s life. Running out of school her little face, poking out from under a tangled mop of curls, lights up at the sight of her nanny. Then, one day, Gloria gets a call. Her mother in Cape Verde has died; she is going home to look after her own children.

Director Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq’s script gently touches on Gloria’s immigration story: the hard sacrifices, but also her drive and dynamism. Working in France, she has put her kids through education and is building a hotel in Cape Verde. The story builds quietly. Cléo is to spend the summer in Cape Verde with Gloria and her two children: university student Fernanda (Abnara Gomes Varela), and a son César (Fredy Gomes Tavares) who is not much older than Cléo. He’s intensely jealous of the girl who stole his mother.

Àma Gloria is a small-scale film, barely over 80 minutes, but it leaves an almighty impression. Everything is so unforced and effortlessly convincing, and there are lovely hand-painted animated sequences, smudgy like dreams or memories, that show Cléo’s way of seeing the world. As for pint-sized star Mauroy-Panzani, I could watch her all day.

Àma Gloria is in UK and Irish cinemas from 14 June.


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