Happy New Year, Grandma!
Urte berri on, amona!
A wicked Basque black comedy with gothic overtones pits an enterprising grandmother against the family who want to put her in a home.
Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.
- Director Telmo Esnal
- Producer Xabier Berzosa, Iñigo Obeso, Iñaki Gómez
- Screenwriter Telmo Esnal, Asier Altuna
- With Montserrat Carulla, Kontxu Odriozola, Nagore Aranburu
- Spain 2011
- 107 mins
- Production company Irusoin SA
Telmo Esnal’s entertaining Basque-language feature is a wicked black comedy with elements of the gothic thriller. Mari is 88, demanding and difficult. She is exhausting her patient daughter Maritxu, who nevertheless refuses to countenance any idea of sending her to a nursing home. But Maritxu’s husband Joxemari has no such qualms, and conspires to take his wife on holiday, leaving his daughter Miren and her husband Kintxo to oversee Mari’s move into the care facility. Only the mute Mari is not prepared to go quietly, and has a plan of her own that plays havoc with the family’s sanity. The pitch-perfect ensemble cast includes Ander’s Josean Bengoetxea as the perennially stressed Kintxo, whose boar-hunting forays are perennially interrupted by family calls, and The Orphanage’s Montserrat Carulla as the wily, enterprising grandmother who may not be as senile or as confused as her benign exterior suggests.
Who doesn’t know someone that has to look after an elderly person?
It has always been said that in old age people grow to be like children – we all know that children are selfish but not in a malicious way. The central axis of this story is the elderly Mari. Mari has indeed become old but she hasn’t become childlike, at least in regards to the malice part. Mari is scared of solitude, she has always been scared of it and as soon as her husband died she moved in with her daughter. Mari has become powerful, bit by bit, by oppressing her daughter. The grandmother’s character has made family life unbearable. This is where our story begins: Grandma Mari has complete control over her daughter. Maritxu doesn’t contemplate another lifestyle other than ‘what life has served her’. But Maritxu and Mari don’t live alone; Maritxu’s husband Joxemari is seeing his wife wither away through her submission to her mother and he isn’t about to lose her. To prevent it he will need the cooperation of his daughter Miren and his son-in-law, Kintxo.
What causes the grandmother’s behaviour?
Above all the fear of loneliness is what drives her to act in this manner, the same way as can occur with children. She craves attention at all times. That is what it seems at first, but perhaps it’s something deeper than that. Perhaps it’s because after so many years looking after people and living for others she has decided that it’s time to recover the debt she feels she is owed and therefore acts like this?
Who conducts the story?
This story doesn’t have a single protagonist. Although Kintxo is who causes the film to evolve, the story revolves around the lives of three women. Happy New Year, Grandma! is intended to show history repeating itself, to show how the same attitudes are repeated by people especially when they are ‘genetically’ similar. Therefore Maritxu takes on Mari’s role in the last third of the film and Miren takes on Maritxu’s role. It’s not in vain that all three women in fact share the same name – Mari, Maritxu and Miren are different forms of the name Maria. In this story, within this family, the characters aren’t what they seem. They all transform and each one of them will show their true colours as the plot thickens. Ultimately we’ll be faced with a selfish family, or to be precise, a family made up of selfish people. Lastly, we have Asier, Kintxo and Miren’s son. He is the one who really suffers through all the characters’ contradictions; he is in the middle and perhaps is the most level-headed. At least he is unprejudiced and is able to understand the situation better than anyone. It is suggested that Asier could take on the role of his father Kintxo in the future, because humans are the only animals that will trip over the same stone twice. But perhaps that will change as Asier and Kintxo don’t share the same name and the importance of the names in the case of the male characters is just as significant as that of the female characters. This leaves room for some hope of change.
After an eleven-year career as assistant director and a successful incursion into the world of short films – having obtained numerous festival awards for such titles as Txotx and 40 ezetz – he made the leap to feature films in 2005, co-directing (with Asier Altuna) Aupa Etxebeste!, a comedy that became the most successful film in the Basque language to that date, attracting over 70,000 spectators and a Goya nomination for Best New Director. With Happy New Year, Grandma! he delivers his first project as a solo director.
1997 Txotx [s]
1999 40 ezetz [s]
2005 Aupa Etxebeste! [co-d]
2007 Taxi? [s]
2010 Amona putz! (The Inflatable Grandma) [s]
2012 Urte berri on, Amona! (Happy New Year, Grandma!)