Review: ‘The Nan Movie,’ starring Catherine Tate

August 24, 2022

by Carla Hay

Mathew Horne, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor and Catherine Tate in “The Nan Movie” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“The Nan Movie”

Directed by Josie Rourke

Culture Representation: Taking place in England and in Ireland, the comedic film “The Nan Movie” features a cast of predominantly white British and Irish people (with one African American and one person of South Asian heritage) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Mean-spirited senior citizen Joanie Taylor, nicknamed Nan, reluctantly goes with her grandson on a road trip from London to Dublin to reunite with her estranged younger sister, who is dying from a terminal illness.

Culture Audience: “The Nan Movie” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Catherine Tate and the Nan character that she created for her BBC TV series, but everyone else will find this movie very hard to take.

Pictured in center row: Catherine Tate, Parker Sawyers and Katherine Parkinson in “The Nan Movie” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

Catherine Tate created the obnoxious elderly character Joanie “Nan” Taylor for short skits on her BBC comedy series “The Catherine Tate Show,” which was on the air from 2004 to 2007. “The Nan Movie” is the semi-torture of having to spend an entire road trip with this dreadful character. (“Nan” is a common nickname for a grandmother.) This junkpile film is just scene after scene of unfunny and repetitive scenarios where Joanie/Nan is excessively rude, crude and unbearable to be around—all for the sake of the filmmakers trying to force viewers to laugh at seeing an old woman character act in this putrid manner.

Directed by Josie Rourke, “The Nan Movie” is such an embarrassment to Rourke, she apparently asked her name to be removed from the movie after completing it. Brett Goldstein (of “Ted Lasso” fame) and Tate, who have no such shame, are credited as the screenwriters for “The Nan Movie.” Everyone involved in making “The Nan Movie” should be ashamed of themselves for creating this stinking mess of a film.

“The Nan Movie” follows working-class Nan going on a road trip with her hapless and easygoing grandson Jamie (played by Mathew Horne), as they travel from their hometown of London to Dublin. At first, Nan (who is a widow) thinks she’s going on a trip to a day spa in Coventry, England. But she finds out that Jamie (who’s doing the driving) is really taking Nan to visit Nan’s estranged younger sister Nell (played by Katherine Parkinson), also known as Nelly, who is dying of an unnamed terminal illness.

Along the way, vulgar shenanigans ensue: Nan hurls insults at people; she falls in with a bunch of rowdy young partiers (including the expected drinking and drugging); she crosses paths with some violent animal rights activists; and she urinates in the car. Nan and Jamie meet a friendly stranger in a bar named Mick (played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), and he’s invited along for the ride, but predictably isn’t quite as nice as he first appeared to be.

“The Nan Movie” also has a cartoonish “villain”: a traffic cop named Officer Mahler (played by Niky Wardley), an uptight and scowling grouch, who is based in Liverpool, England. Officer Mahler holds a grudge against Nan because Nan got Officer Mahler fired from her previous job for allegedly being “insensitive to the elderly.” Like a stalker, Officer Mahler shows up in various places where Nan and Jamie are, as if Officer Mahler has nothing better to do with her time but to try to catch Nan doing something illegal in places outside of Officer Mahler’s jurisdiction.

During this road trip, Jamie asks Nan to tell him why she and Nell haven’t spoken to each other in decades. This leads to dull flashbacks of Joanie and Nell in their childhoods, teenage years and adulthoods. As young adults, Joanie and Nell were partners in crime as thieves, stealing mostly furniture and then selling the stolen merchandise. The reason for the sisters falling out with each other had to do with their rivalry over the same man as a love interest: an African American military soldier named Walter (played by Parker Sawyers), whom the sisters met in England during World War II, when they were both in their 20s.

Walter is the only African American in Joanie and Nell’s social circle, so there are idiotic racist comments/scenarios in “The Nan Movie.” In one of the many mind-numbing flashback scenes, Joanie has this to say to Walter when they first meet each other at a dancehall: “Ain’t you a big, black beautiful sight for sore eyes.” When Nan and Jamie get to Ireland on the road trip, the movie is polluted with dimwitted xenophobic remarks about Irish people, including mindless and loathsome stereotypes that mention leprechauns and alcoholism.

This movie is so stupid, the math doesn’t add up for Nan’s age. If she were in her 20s during World War II (which took place from 1939 to 1944), then Nan would be in her late 90s or over 100 years old in the early 2020s. Instead, Nan is presented in the movie (which takes place in the early 2020s) as someone who’s supposed to be in her 70s or 80s. “The Nan Movie” also has some sloppy-looking and ugly cartoon sequences to depict some of the drug hallucinations experienced by Nan.

There’s really no point in further describing this trash dump of a movie, except to say that there really aren’t any redeeming qualities to it. The so-called jokes are terrible, the acting is close to unwatchable, and the story has no originality or innovation. If you want rude and lewd adult comedy, then you’re better off watching any number of stand-up comedian specials to fulfill that purpose, instead of killing some of your brain cells with the time-wasting abomination that is “The Nan Movie.”

Screen Media Films released “The Nan Movie” in select U.S. cinemas, digital and VOD on July 22, 2022. The movie is set for release on DVD on September 6, 2022. “The Nan Movie” was released in the United Kingdom and Ireland on March 18, 2022.

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