Star Rating:


Director: Paul Weitz

Actors: Marcia Gay Harden, Julia Garner

Release Date: Friday 11th December 2015

Genre(s): Factual

Running time: 79 minutes

Lily Tomlin can be marmite for some people. Whilst there are those that love her biting wit and deadpan delivery, others may find it off-putting and aloof. One thing can't be denied - she's a talented woman and Grandma is further evidence of that fact.

Playing a hip grandmother with a cool car, Tomlin is put upon by her young granddaughter, The Americans' Julia Garner, who has become pregnant and desires an abortion. Tomlin's character is going through her own various crises; recently bereaved, she coldly rebuffed a criminally-underused Judy Greer and decides to take charge of her granddaughter's situation by taking her on a trip to sort out the procedure and find some money to do it. The unlikely duo set off and meet with the various people in their life, including an old flame of Tomlin's played by Sam Elliot and Garner's shabby ex-boyfriend / impregnator, Nat Wolff.

While the film's message isn't exactly subtle - it's a woman's body and a woman's choice - there are moments when it feels beautifully underwritten and natural. That's thanks, in large part, to Tomlin's unfettered on-screen confidence. She soaks up the screen with her angry, bitter persona that sees her arguing with a hipster over a feminist tome whilst Garner skulks away and tries to reconcile herself with the decision.

Although the film is about a young girl trying to get an abortion, the situation isn't treated flippantly in the slightest. Paul Weitz, he of American Pie fame (yes, the one where the teenager screws an actual pie), knows that to do so would to diminish both the gravity of Garner's decision and how her grandmother and mother react to it. Clocking in under 90 minutes, Grandma has a huge amount of emotional weight packed in. A particularly heartbreaking scene involves Tomlin and Elliot, who sheds his tough-guy persona for a moment of true vulnerability on-screen. It's so pregnant with emotion (no pun intended) that it almost feels voyeuristic to watch.

Ultimately, Grandma is a film about the choices we make, for better or worse. We see two specific characters, one who's starting to making choices and one's who living with them. It's a surprisingly tender drama with a few moments of dry comedy peppered across the top. Recommended viewing.