For those of you lucky to still have your grandparents around, you almost certainly don’t call them enough! You know you should, and you feel guilty about it, but life always presents an excuse: work is too hectic, groceries need to be bought, you’re 3 episodes behind on on your favorite show…we get it. If you need inspiration to remind you what an enjoyable experience spending time with your elderly relations can be though, we present today’s pick, Nonna. Micheline wants to get on Facebook and needs her granddaughter’s help. While being forced to play IT-person is one of the few legitimate reasons to want to avoid your grandmum, here the result is a great afternoon—a lovely trip down memory lane, a few glasses of wine, and, eventually, success—her online profile is set! Director Pascal Plante crafts a warm and sweet short film that, for those who can, will immediately make you want to hang out with your grandma, or at the very least call her. Exploring the intergenerational bond with a rare playfulness, the film succeeds through its uplifting tone, interesting mixing of genres, and its performances—introducing to the screen a rare gem in the non-actress Micheline Chamberland.
The grandparent/grandchild relationship is not often depicted on screen, and truthfully more often than not, taken for granted in real life, so it is a delight to see it focused upon here. The inspiration for the film came from an epiphany of Plante’s, an unshakeable feeling that we need to talk and listen to our elders, and he wanted to dramatize this specifically from a young adult’s point of view. It just so happened that his producer’s grandmother is quite a character, and thus Nonna was born. In the film, Micheline’s granddaughter rediscovers, through different lenses, a richer portrait of her beloved grandma than she had previously known. At first, as they are creating the Facebook profile, we discover Micheline in a very topical way, as we probably get to know most of the people we meet these days. When it is time to upload pictures to the profile, the lens changes to a more traditional, almost outdated way of sharing stories—physical pictures dug out of the attic. Eventually both world collide when wine starts flowing and ultimately the two women are just having a sweet and fun afternoon.
It doesn’t sound revelatory on paper, and in a world filled with “edgy” short films, and filmmakers keen to tackle big, systemic, societal issues, the modest ambitions of the project may seem quaint. However the film’s process does prove interesting. Plante is a self-described cinephile which lead him on his path to narrative filmmaking, but he is heavily influenced by documentarian techniques and aesthetics. This is clear in regards to Nonna, as only the plot and the structure of the film were planned—there was no written dialogue, and the interactions are improvisatory. While Nonna is still a work of fiction, it is strongly based on Micheline Chamberland’s personal archives and memories. Despite the lack of an acting background, at 83 years-old, Chamberland turned out to be a “closet performer” and her chemistry with Catherine Beauchemin is heartfelt and heartwarming. The authenticity of this approach lends extra appeal and is evident onscreen—the easy banter and laughs they share are impossible not to be smitten by. They radiate such good energy in enjoying each other’s company that the positivity is contagious through the screen. The audience becomes part of their afternoon, and I ended up having as much fun as they did.
A favorite at Slamdance, Plante premiered Nonna in Park City in 2017 before returning in 2018 with his narrative feature debut, Fake Tattoos, that went on to be programed at the Berlinale. He is already developing a new feature film entitled Nadia, Butterfly about professional competitive swimmers.