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Ama Gloria ★★★★



Released: 14 June 2024

Director: Marie Amachoukeli

Starring: Luoise Mauroy-Panzani, Ilça Moreno Zego, Arnaud Rebotini, Abnara Gomes Varela

‘I only make memories with you.’ One of the lines in Áma Gloria that best showcases the beautiful relationship between the two main characters, a kid and her nanny. Admittedly, this is something we have seen in cinema before – Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee both spring to mind – but the film manages to take this beloved trope and turn it into something both entirely original and very real. After all, the story is partially inspired by the director’s own life experience of seeing the woman who used to take care of her go back to her home country.

Áma Gloria starts in Paris where a six-year-old Cléo, a lively kid with a bright personality and even brighter imagination, lives with her father Arnaud (Arnaud Rebotini). After her mother’s death, Cléo was mostly raised by her beloved nanny Gloria (Ilça Moreno Zego): the two are, as may be expected, inseparable and Cléo clearly loves her deeply. It comes as a shock for everyone in the family, then, when Gloria has to suddenly return to her hometown in Cape Verde after the death of her mother. But not all is lost – not entirely – as Gloria asks Arnaud to let Cléo spend the summer with her in Cape Verde before saying goodbye. Naturally, Cléo wants nothing more in the world than spending one last summer with her nanny, so much so that her father has to agree to this adventure.

Louise Mauroy-Panzani is incredible as Cléo, showing the full range and complexity of a child’s grief. It is beautiful and refreshing to see how Áma Gloria gives depth and importance to this character as children are often too infantilized in movies, ending up with few scenes and even fewer lines. Of course, a lot of this is thanks to Mauroy-Panzani’s stellar breakout performance: at only the age of 6 when the movie was shot, she showed an emotional understanding that bodes well for what may very well be a promising career in her future.

The titular Gloria is also an impressive and memorable character because, as Cléo herself makes abundantly clear there is no Cléo without Gloria, and vice versa. The two characters seem inevitably intertwined from the very beginning of Áma Gloria but part of growing up for Cléo, also resides in the fact that she has to live in a world where Gloria may not be with her every day. It may not be the same as losing a family member, but it is still painful for a child who loves her nanny more than anything in the world. Their bond is beautifully portrayed throughout, speaking to the importance of a found family that is not necessarily only defined by blood relations.

The film also does a really good job of showing children’s imagination through animation techniques. In Áma Gloria, Cléo’s imagination literally comes to life through the animation sequences that will very much remind the audience of the drawings in children’s books. It is a clever way of visually showcasing what a kid’s imagination looks like: it is different from real life with its imaginary brush strokes that paint a new world with the ethereal atmosphere that characterizes kids’ stories. Visually, the movie also marks the difference between Paris, where the first act of the film is set, and Cape Verde made up of lighter colours and warmer tones.

Overall, Áma Gloria is a sweet and tender movie with beautifully complex characters – Cléo may very well be one of the best-written child characters I have seen on screen in a very long time – and an emotional narrative. All of this is paired with a brilliant visual style that shines through on the big screen if you can see it in cinemas. It is a magnificent tale of grief, growing up, and love that teaches the protagonist Cléo – and perhaps the audience watching the film too – an important lesson that will allow her to grow and leave part of her childhood behind in Cape Verde with Gloria.

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