The Nan Movie review

The Nan Movie

Cockney pensioner Joanie Taylor (Catherine Tate) receives a letter from her dying, estranged sister Nell (Katherine Parkinson) asking for a reconciliation. Driven by her grandson Jamie (Mat Horne), Joanie believes she is on her way to spend a spa day in Coventry. Instead, she is embarking on an eventful journey that invokes painful memories from the past.

Release Date: 18th March 2022.

In short-form sketches on The Catherine Tate Show since 2004, Catherine Tate’s Nan character — real name Joanie Taylor — captured something of the unvarnished but dry wit of certain elderly London women, nailing the way many working-class women talk and react with a clear, observant eye and zero condescension. Still, she is perhaps an unlikely candidate for a big-screen transition — especially since the character hasn’t been regularly on screen since 2015. Alas, The Nan Movie is a mostly unfunny attempt to wring long-form laughs from a character who works better in short doses.

The Nan Movie
The Nan Movie

Written by Tate and Ted Lasso’s Brett Goldstein, it splits its story between two story strands: Nan (Tate) and nephew Jamie’s (Mat Horne) road trip to an “island off Ireland” to reconnect with distant but dying sister Nell (Katherine Parkinson), and a series of flashbacks that reveal what drove a wedge between the two siblings. The present-tense story is a washout, a series of slow but increasingly mirthless, obvious vignettes — Nan falls in with a bunch of Aussie rugby fans with names like Nutsack and Arsemunch, goes clubbing, gets high, becomes an accomplice for a militant vegan activist and, worst of all, resumes a feud with Mahler (Niky Wardley), a thorn from Joanie’s past who is now a vindictive traffic warden. It’s the stuff of poorly thought-through ’80s children’s TV.

The flashback strand is essentially explaining why Nan is so embittered and unhappy with her lot. Mostly set during World War II, it paints the bond between awkward Joanie and outgoing Nell before it is broken by dashing GI Walter (Parker Sawyers). It’s broadly played — Jack Doolan registers as Joanie’s over-eager suitor Terry — and has a twist in the tail you won’t see coming. Weirdly, thanks to the skills of Tate and Parkinson, The Nan Movie does a better job with its dramatic beats than it does with its comedy.

“Weirdly, The Nan Movie does a better job with its dramatic beats than it does with its comedy”

Insomniacs: Reviews
The Nan Movie Trailer

The film doesn’t have an on-screen directorial credit — originally announced director Josie Rourke is cited as an executive producer, and the only claim to authorship comes with an “A Catherine Tate Film” title card. There is a scattershot quality, both in the filmmaking (the titles seem to come from an ‘edgy’ ’90s youth show; parts of the journey are relayed in poor animation seemingly based on the notion that Jamie makes YouTube ’toons) and the comedy. It flits from fart gags to inane riffing on Sandi Toksvig’s name to some more successful character-based chuckles (Joanie’s two-faced quality is never not funny). It’s always been part of the character’s DNA that she has a preternatural grasp of pop culture, but continuously singing along to Twaimz’s ‘The Roll Call Song’ feels a step too far when on some level you are being asked to invest in a story about sisterly reconnection.A perfectly formed sketch character, there was never really any need for a Nan origin story, let alone one so haphazard, lacking in charm and good jokes. This isn’t quite “a fucking liberty”, to hijack the catchphrase — but it’s close.