The Nan Movie

The Nan Movie has made its way across the pond from the UK to North America like a rolling storm cloud.  Sometimes though, an anticipated storm turns out to be pretty mellow and not the disaster you were expecting;  a pleasant surprise, even.  And sometimes, such is the case with The Nan Movie, that storm can hit you harder than you ever expected.

The Nan Movie is a mess where the absence of a credited director is only the tip of the iceberg.  Josie Rourke (Mary Queen of Scots) was originally billed before having her name removed from the project due to creative differences involving the narrative.  I usually don’t like to bring this type of gossipy controversy into a review but, like Exposed or Grizzly II: Revenge, it certainly serves a factor with how aimless The Nan Movie looks and feels.

While the finished film is still dedicated to the comedy of the titular Nan character (conceived and played by comedian Catherine Tate), The Nan Movie toggles back-and-forth between a period piece expanding on Nan’s upbringing and a contemporary road movie featuring Nan riding shotgun with her milquetoast nephew Jamie (Mathew Horne).  Nan is tricked by Jamie into visiting her wayward sister Nell (Katherine Parkinson) and, along the way, Nan tells the story of the wedge separating her and Nell from having a relationship.  However, that story is often interrupted with rambling improv and obnoxious on-the-road tangents.

The Nan Movie is a series of ideas that have been slapped together to get Nan and Jamie from A to B, and the filmmakers are fully aware of their wishy-washy commitment to a primary genre or tone. It’s very obvious how the film’s focus has been readjusted to follow the road trip more than Nan’s past due to the film’s persistent use of immature humour. The period portions are so out of place and po-faced that they play as bits from an incomplete and irrelevant movie. The plot also features zany interludes featuring Jamie’s cutout animation that coincidentally happen during bigger action pieces. The film covers itself by having Jamie briefly mention, early on that he likes to make animations. Lazy, transparent, and incredibly jarring on the eyes? Yes, but the filmmakers don’t seem to care.

How is the comedy? I wasn’t familiar with Tate’s Nan character prior to the movie but, like Tyler Perry’s recent outings with his Madea character, the performer’s delivery isn’t reigned in enough in The Nan Movie. Aside from having to endure Tate’s haggard make-up and prosthetics, the viewer is subjected to her mugging and mumbling when Nan isn’t assaulting our ears with her cackle (a mix between Woody Woodpecker and a machine gun). The viewer is in utter shock whenever a co-star finds Nan endearing or funny. The film finishes with a face plant by featuring a climactic family reunion in a context that invites inclusivity in an absolutely tasteless way.

Usually movie goers are vying for unpredictability. The Nan Movie is unpredictable, but in ways that make us on edge; questioning if anyone is truly at the wheel of this bizarre creation. An end credit reads “a Catherine Tate film”, which makes the whole ordeal more suspicious.


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