Reel Reviews | àma Gloria (Sundance ’24)

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Six-year-old Cléo loves her nanny, Gloria, more than anything. When Gloria must return to Cape Verde to care for her children, the two must make the most of their last summer together.

When his wife dies unexpectedly, suddenly single father Arnaud (Arnaud Rebotini) finds himself in over his head and hires Gloria (Ilça Moreno Zego) to step in and be a nanny for his daughter, Cléo (Lousie Mauroy-Panzani).  After almost six years together, Gloria is urgently called to leave France and return to her home in Cape Verde for a family emergency.  Realizing the extent of the emergency, Gloria informs Arnaud that she will not be able to return to his service.  Her one last request is to allow Cléo to visit her in Cape Verde for one last summer so that she can say goodbye.  

Director and screenwriter Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq created àma Gloria based on her co-authored screenplay of the same name. Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq co-directed Party Girl, which won the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2017, her animated film I Want Pluto To Be A Planet Again was nominated for a 2018 César Award.

In her solo-feature directorial debut, Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq displays the careful observation of a masterful auteur in how she captures both the complex situation of Gloria, called back to a family that has grown without her but needs her more than ever, and Cléo, too young and loving to say goodbye to another mother.

While àma Gloria is a film about relationships and examines the impact that Gloria’s absence has had upon the whole family, the striking power of this beautiful film is in the loving relationship between Gloria and Cléo, made more real by the incredible performance of 6-year-old Louise Mauroy-Panzani as Cléo, who gives a smart, tender and nuanced performance that belies her age.  Mauroy-Panzani’s performance empowers the entire film and the director squeezes every bit of ability out of her.  We get super intimate close-ups of her face where it is always clearly evident what this adorable little girl is feeling.

The most winning scenes are between Cléo and Gloria’s resentful 11-year-old son Cesar.  Cesar wants nothing to do with Cléo who he feels stole his mother from him.  Eventually, Cléo breaks him down without doing anything more than being herself and ultimately Cesar accepts her as a sister.

While one may consider it pandering to use children, Amachoukeli-Barsacq uses the power that is within them to create a beautiful tale of love, innocence, and the need for protection.  àma Gloria is easily one of the most tender and emotionally packed movies of this festival.

Grade:  A