A six-year-old girl must contend with losing her beloved nanny in this ’charmed, heartwarming’ Critics Week opening film 

Ama Gloria

Source: Pyramide International

‘Ama Gloria’

Dir/scr: Marie Amachoukeli. France. 2023. 84mins

Ama Gloria is quite the heartbreaker as writer/director Marie Amachoukeli confidently traces the intense bond between a six year-old girl and her beloved nanny. Acutely sensitive to the churning emotions of childhood, this autobiographical tale has a clear affinity with Celine Sciamma’s Petite Maman (2021) and was made by Sciamma’s production company Lilies Films. It is a small film, but one whose subtle touch and generous spirit proves captivating. Careful handling should reward arthouse distributors in the wake of the film’s world premiere as the opening gala of Critics Week.

 Packs a lot of tender feeling and complexity into its modest running time

Amachoukeli won the Camera D’Or at Cannes as co-director of her debut feature Party Girl (2014) and has a varied career since that ranges through short films, television, an installation for the Opera De Paris and serving as script editor on Julia Ducournau’s Raw (2016). All that experience shows in a finely judged second feature that packs a lot of tender feeling and complexity into its modest running time.  

The film instantly establishes that nanny Gloria (Ilca Moreno Zego) means everything to little Cleo, played by the extraordinary Louise Mauroy-Panzani. Cleo’s mother died of cancer and she lives with her loving father Arnaud (Arnaud Rebotini) but it is Gloria who cares for her. She is the one who plays with her, who makes her giggle, puts her to bed and always kisses things better. The smile of joy when Gloria is there to greet her at the school gates says everything.

The classroom scenes call to mind Nicolas Philibert’s To Be And To Have (2002) and the film’s early scenes have a documentary-like intimacy. Amachoukeli favours extreme close-ups, letting the camera closely observe the fond interactions and precious looks exchanged between the child and Gloria. Mauroy-Panzani’s Cleo is smart and shrewd, peering out at the world from behind large glasses and secure in the knowledge that she is safe and loved.

Everything changes when Gloria receives a call informing her that her mother has died. Now, she must leave Paris and return to Cape Verde to care for her own children Fernanda (Abnara Gomes Varela) and Cesar (Fredy Gomes Tavares). Her future lies there. Cleo is so distraught at their parting that her father allows her to visit Gloria for one last summer together in Cape Verde.

The move allows Cleo and the viewer to consider Gloria’s life and what she had left behind. A surly Cesar feels the injustice of having been abandoned. Fernanda is pregnant with her first child. There is so much that Gloria has missed, and the story becomes a compelling study of jealousies and resentments in which Cleo has to confront the reality that she no longer has a claim to be the centre of Gloria’s world.

Amachoukeli creates a sympathetic story in which everyone has their reasons for what they have done. The Cape Verde scenes allow us into Gloria’s world of a community reliant on fishing and tourism, where religion holds sway for her family and she has her hopes set on building a small hotel. Everything deepens out understanding of the ties that bind Gloria to her home.

Abstract watercolour animation sequences are threaded throughout the film, sometimes providing back story to the early attachment Cleo felt for Gloria as she took her first steps or capturing Cleo’s inner world. A complete natural in front of the camera, Mauroy-Panzani conveys every element of joy, sadness, jealousy and regret that Cleo experiences as she confronts the seismic changes in her world. It is a beguiling performance at the heart of a charming, heartfelt film.

Production company: Lilies Films

International sales: Pyramide International amauruc@pyramidefilms.com

Producer: Benedicte Couvreur

Cinematography: Ines Tabarin

Production design: Zoe Carre

Editing: Suzana PedroMusic: Fanny Martin

Main cast: Louise Mauroy-Panzani, Ilca Moreno Zego, Arnaud Rebotini, Fredy Gomes Tavares