A winsome if wobbly concept is given winsome if wobbly treatment in “Nonna’s Trip,” an agreeable but slight comedy about a family’s attempts to spin its forgetful matriarch a cinematic white lie. “Trip” goes pretty much where you’d expect it to, given the premise, but its predictability and low-budget look are outweighed by the vigor and charm; it looks like the pic was as much fun to make as it is to watch. Fests with an interest in Lat-Am cinema’s lighter side could stamp Nonna’s ticket, and a Hollywood remake is not at all out of the question.
At her 70th birthday party, a widowed grandmother (Ana Ofelia Murguia) — referred to throughout as Nonna, Italian for “grandmother” — expresses her desire to visit her dead husband’s birthplace in Italy. Given that she has forgotten her own birthday, the idea is cause for consternation among her family, principally daughter Maria (Veronica Langer) and son Luigi (Rodrigo Murray). What’s the point of making the trip if Nonna’s only going to forget it anyway?
Along with her other son, Carlo (Julio Bracho), an adman, they come up with the idea of faking the trip: They arrive in a supposedly Italian village, to be met by a supposedly Italian priest played by a Mexican actor. The family and the extras they have hired spend much of the rest of the pic desperately trying to prevent Nonna from seeing through the illusion as they urgently move a hastily constructed film set around behind her, generating much mirth. Wisely, Nonna picks up on the deceit fairly quickly, though she decides to say nothing.
The delirious dinnertime scene at which Nonna meets her dead husband’s family, all played by extras, is the pic’s centerpiece.
The laugh meter flickers frequently, and though some of the jokes are well worn, none miss the target entirely. The generally frenzied air is well captured by busy lensing that incorporates much of Carlo’s video footage, and sharp editing.
After the family leaves for the trip, the pic becomes totally implausible, but the idea is so strong and the perfs so lively that the aud is seduced into participating in Nonna’s fantasy. Murguia easily carries the emotional weight of it all on her experienced shoulders as an entirely credible blend of defiance and fragility. Her fraught relationship with Maria is well drawn, but that’s about it in terms of chemistry, and lower down the cast list, characters blend too easily into one another.
Score is often lively accordion-based Italian-style fare. The low-budget feel is at least partly justified as fitting the family’s low-budget movie within the movie.