In life she was an eccentric: a Chicago nanny who took the children she looked after on trips to the city’s rougher neighbourhoods. Her name was Vivian Maier, and this intriguing but slapdash doc uncovers a side of her that friends and employers never saw. It turns out that Maier was a secret street photographer, who used her walks as an excuse to shoot portraits of whoever took her fancy.
Maier’s photographs are stunning – off-the-cuff yet rigorously composed. But this doc’s co-director John Maloof, who discovered an archive of Maier’s work, is irritating. He tries too hard to force her genius on us. Only when the film delves into Maier’s later years – when her behavioural quirks (early signs of mental illness) got the better of her – do we really get a sense of the complex person behind the hidden talent.