Last week, Bleeding Cool scooped the news that the current UK film The Nan Movie written by and starring Catherine Tate was missing a director credit, suggesting that something seriously weird had gone down during production.
My review of the movie pointed out how it was a film of two halves, with a thoughtful, beautifully shot period piece set in London during the war, told in flashback.
But that it was marred by the other half of the film, a great, dull-looking road trip from London to Ireland filled with boring, tedious irrelevant distractions that hurt the brain. And that some post-production editing seemed to have been employed to bring it to the screen. It’s not every day that your gut feeling and presumptions are 100% bang on the money, but it seems that it was even worse than I presumed.
I’ve been informed by UK film people in the know that The Nan Movie’s original director Jessica Rourke filmed a thoughtful period piece with jokes, written by Catherine Tate and Brett Goldstein, the majority of the film was set in 1940s London, as could be seen in the onset photos, now deleted, that she posted to Instagram. But that, on the delivery of the film in 2019, someone panicked as the film was seen as too far from the original sketches from twenty years ago.
This was partially the point, taking a caricature of a monster and finding the heart, the reasons, the journey taken, and that everyone has a past that informs the way they are now, however horrible. It was an exercise in dramatic empathy. But maybe not what the investors wanted for The Nan Movie.
And so, the wartime period scenes were cut right back. The majority of the road trip, now taking up most of The Nan Movie, were then written and filmed on the cheap without Rourke. The animation sequences were then added when the reshoot budget couldn’t stretch to all that was deemed necessary, which meant re-recording part of the soundtrack to add an early reference to Jamie being an amateur animator to try and justify it.
What does this mean? Well, somewhere, the original The Nan Movie film exists. Maybe we could call it The Rourke Cut. And it could deliver a far more satisfying, emotionally rich, beautifully shot cinematic experience that might even have an appeal beyond the shores of the UK. At least certainly in comparison to the travesty that hit the screen this weekend. Does anyone want to start a petition? I understand that the studio Warner Bros. might be susceptible to that kind of thing.
Movie review Brutally unfunny outing for Catherine Tate
Belated cinema adventure for Tate’s sketch-show character and her grandson Matthew Horne is depressingly terrible, British films which are basically the convenience-store sandwich of big-screen entertainment. Cinema’s equivalent of the 24-hour-garage tuna mayo pitta bread. And that, sadly, is the case with The Nan Movie, a truly horrendous and depressing film about Catherine Tate’s sweary old-lady character from her sketch show, in a storyline stretched out to a brutal hour and a half.
It arrives in UK cinemas with no fanfare and an uneasy lack of clarity about who the director is supposed to be. Some official listings give it as former Donmar Warehouse artistic director Josie Rourke and some say Tate herself, but there’s nothing on the closing credits, other than to say that both are producers. Was this how British audiences felt when they stumbled out of the cinema having watched Holiday on the Buses in 1973, or Keith Lemon: The Film in 2012? Did they also suspect that their profound depression and self-reproach were secretly shared by the film-makers themselves?
The idea is that Nan (actual first name: Joanie) is still living in her London flat getting visits from her devoted grandson Jamie (Mathew Horne), a well-meaning liberal who drives a charity minibus for people suffering with anxiety and helps them do therapeutic craft activities. Or, as it says on the bus: Crafts Undo Negative Thinking, which is one of the funnier bits.
Nan receives a letter from her long-estranged sister Nell (Katherine Parkinson), from the cottage where she lives on an “island off of Ireland”, who wants to see her because she is dying. Jamie offers to drive Nan there in his minibus, and their wacky road-movie adventures are interspersed with flashbacks to the war, when Joanie and Nell were two London-Irish sisters during the blitz who fell out because they both fell in love with the same man: a handsome African American GI played by Parker Sawyers (whose most prominent role before this was playing Barack Obama in a film about his first date with Michelle).
Perhaps this film could have worked if it just told the 1940 part of the story – there are flashes of good material here and there.
Tate is a black-belt comic and even this film can’t utterly efface that fact. But the modern-day sections with Nan accidentally going clubbing are very close to late-period Carry On, and sadder than anything by Ingmar Bergman.
It really is a terrible film – emerging just as Catherine Tate is unveiling another multi-persona TV show, Hard Cell, about all the people in a women’s prison. Tate fans are hoping and expecting the best for that. But a 2027 film about a breakout character from Hard Cell probably won’t be a good idea.
Catherine Tate’s Hard Cell on Netflix
The Nan Movie is set for its cinematic release this week, but Catherine Tate’s not content to just be plastered all over the big screen as one of her famous characters – she’s also set for a new Netflix series.
Hard Cell is the latest comedy series to come from the star and it’s coming to the streaming channel very soon.
Find out everything we know about Hard Cell, including when it’s released, who stars in it and what to expect.
When is Catherine Tate’s Hard Cell released on Netflix?
Hard Cell launches on Netflix on Tuesday 12th April.
What is Hard Cell about?
Hard Cell is a dockumentary is set in a fictional women’s prison HMP Woldsley across a six-week period and sees prisoners and staff prepare for an upcoming production.
“Rehearsals draw together an oddball collection of women as they find their voices, grow in confidence, and strengthen their friendships,” reads the synopsis. “Funny yet surprisingly moving, Hard Cell leans into the comical truth of prison life.”
Executive producer Kristian Smith said: “We cannot wait to show audiences on Netflix the inside of HMP Woldsley, our fictional prison occupied by the fantastic creations of Catherine Tate. This series is funny and touching all at once, revealing what life might be like in a British women’s correctional facility”.
Who does Catherine Tate play in Hard Cell?
Hard Cell sees Catherine Tate play a series of characters in the prison mockumentary. They include Laura, the governor of HMP Woldsley, Ros, a popular inmate who is fleecing her pen-pal boyfriend and her brutal ex-con mum Anne Marie, plus a terrifying devoted Kardashian fan called Big Viv, a scared first-timer called Ange and an Essex prison guard named Marco.