Short of the Week

Documentary Åsa Blanck & Johan Palmgren

Grandpa and Me and a Helicopter to Heaven

A grandfather passes on one last secret to his grandson in a story of family, love, and mushrooms.

Grandpa and Me and a Helicopter to Heaven

Directed By Åsa Blanck & Johan Palmgren
Made In Sweden

The proliferation of documentaries in the world of short films confirms what most of us know – that the real world is full of great stories. We see many of these that are good at informing viewers about situations, but the best are those that we can all relate to, that make an emotional connection in a way that cuts across cultural and language barriers to speak to us all. This film from Sweden is one of the latter, documenting a touching family relationship between a bedridden man coming to the end of his life and his young grandson, centering around the sharing of a final secret regarding wild-growing Chanterelle mushrooms.

Like the Chanterelle mushrooms, this relationship stands out. It is something we all want and hold to be of great value.

The focus on this moment is not incidental. Chaterelle mushrooms are quite rare, with a golden color that makes them stand out in the drab greens of the forest. Although they take work to prepare, and need careful cultivation to ensure they continue to grow each year, they are valuable, much sought after, and well worth all the effort put in. Although it helps to know this, it is not a film about horticulture, but rather how these same characteristics apply to the relationship between grandfather and grandson.

We spend the majority of the film in the latter days of the grandfather’s life, however home movie footage reveals the roots of this relationship, from baby through to boy. We also see the influence and connection outside of his shared time with his grandfather, and the takeaway is apparent – this is the type of relationship all of us would want across the generations of our family. Having recently become a parent for the first time and longing for this same connection with my own child, the callbacks to the length and consistency of this relationship show that this is not something that happened overnight. Like the Chanterelle mushrooms, this relationship stands out, it is something we all want and hold to be of great value, but it requires the same work, the same effort to make it happen, and make it happen consistently over a lifetime.

The title Grandpa and Me and a Helicopter to Heaven suggests a film of Hallmark sentimentality, but the reality is far from this: it delivers the relationship in a very straight fashion, showing us its roots, and the golden results that have grown over years to make for a moving story that all generations can connect to.