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Ama Gloria

Six-year-old Cléo isn't ready to give up her nanny Gloria, so they spend their last summer together on an island haunted by colonialism - from the 32nd edition of Raindance

Little Cléo adores her nanny Gloria (Ilça Moreno Zego). They share a bond that goes beyond familial; it’s kindred. Concurrent to this growth comes Gloria’s desire to return to her biological children, and the two must share one last summer together. Based in part on director Maria Amachoukeli’s life experience, Ama Gloria follows these two over 84 minutes; showing the little nothings that transforms a moment into a memory.

A bare-bone plot – it’s effectively a gentler, more family friendly equivalent to Aftersun (Charlotte Wells, 2022) – is made all the more remarkable by Louise Mauroy-Panzani’s portrayal as Cléo. The feature begins in an optician’s shop, where the young child giggles and smiles throughout the test. All the while, this particular infant stares at their nanny with a gaze of optimism and wonder. Mauroy-Panzani embodies these themes with great credence to the script; enjoying herself as they do so.

Intercut with animated segments, Amachoukeli creates a child-like energy that allows viewers to go on this journey through a younger pair of eyes. Through Cléo, Gloria gets to revisit some treasured memories, yielding a sword in the style of Zorro to pain the letter ‘Z’. And guided by her minder, Cléo gets to learn about a new culture, which aids them both when they travel to the nanny’s native Cape Verde.

Considering the complex history (Cape Verde is a former Portuguese colony), their dynamic sits at odds with the local aesthete (Cléo finds herself as one of the few caucasians in the region.) The tension heightens because Gloria’s son César (Fredy Gomes Tavares) struggles to accept his mother’s relationship with a surrogate child: ““It’s weird for me,” Cléo admits, “because I only have memories of you.” What swiftly emerges from the screen is a tale of disparate voices; a clan of alteration and apathy. Hidden behind over-sized spectacles, Cléo nevertheless cannot hide her emotions, bringing audiences into the pool of emotion; from the vigorous to the fleeting. In Gloria’s daughter Nanda (Abnara Gomes Varela), the child sees a projection of her future self, all braids and pregnant body. Curious to touch the baby bump, Cléo is transported into a fantasy bolstered by colour and creativity.

Much of this changes when the newborn arrives, and Gloria devotes her attention to her grand-child. Cléo is horrified to hear her a song she’s familiar with: “That’s my song!” César is also overcoming a barrier of his own, contemplating the time he lost with his parent while she was overseas minding other infants. Yet love remains on the big screen, a tenderness that is voiceless and malleable at all times.

Static though the camera work is, the performances more than make up for this, and Zego lets out a disembodied yelp as her character comes to terms with the future she will almost certainly miss out on with Cléo. All they have is this summer together; afterwards, the future is uncertain.

Designed as a memory of sorts, Ama Gloria’s success stems from the micro-interactions that prove more impactful over time. A tribute to a more innocent era in a person’s life, Amachoukeli wisely chooses a more buoyant theme for the story. Unlike the bite that centres Aftersun, this picture is less concerned with moral development as it is with memento and detail. It’s up to the viewer to impart a lesson on the visuals; children are too busy living in their reality to intellectualise their surroundings. Driven by economy, the story unravels at its own pace, never outstaying its welcome. The fragile undertones echoed by the two leads are undeniable: one leading the proceedings, the second embodying them.

Ama Gloria is in cinemas o n Friday, June 14th.

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