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Thelma Review: Squibb is No Ordinary Grandma

Richard Roundtree and June Squibb look at a monitor in the film Thelma by Josh Margolin

Thelma is an absolutely adorable film that follows June Squibb as a grandma who gets payback on criminals who recently scammed her.

At the beginning of Thelma, any grandma’s worst nightmare occurs. Thelma’s (June Squibb) grandson (Fred Hechinger) has been in an accident and she must send ten thousand dollars to help him out. Right after Thelma panics and sends the money, she realizes that she was scammed. Thelma is not an ordinary elderly person. She loves to run errands and keep moving so naturally, she goes on an action packed adventure to find the people who wronged her. 

I never knew how much I needed an action/adventure film starring a grandmother until I saw Thelma. The concept is extremely silly, yet effortlessly wholesome, and writer-director Josh Margolin knew exactly the tone that was needed to make this film work. The filmmaker makes every step of Thelma’s adventure feel so high stakes without making it feel like a parody of blockbuster action films. However, if action is what you’re looking for, this film certainly has its moments. There are chase scenes, explosions and weapons, but instead of watching someone like Chris Evans or Tom Cruise, it’s just Thelma with her friends and family. 

Of course this film would not work without June Squibb, who gives a committed, subtle performance. She never explicitly states why she must go on this adventure, besides to get her money back, but the audience is able to pick up on her emotions by the way she delivers lines or looks at her family. Not only does Squibb deliver yet another great performance, but her entire family is just as strong. Danny, Thelma’s grandson, is the main supporting performance, and Hechinger and Squibb’s chemistry is so wholesome: anytime they shared a scene, I was smiling ear to ear. 

Danny’s parents, Gail (Parker Posey) and Alan (Clark Gregg), are hilarious as well. They are extremely overprotective not only with Thelma, but also with Danny and watching the way that they treat both of their relatives so similarly makes for some of the funniest moments of the film. There were times that the audience was laughing so much that the next ten seconds of dialogue was drowned out.

Richard Roundtree and June Squibb on a motorbike in the film Thelma by Josh Margolin
Richard Roundtree and June Squibb appear in Thelma by Josh Margolin, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by David Bolen.

While Thelma is an action comedy in every way possible, there is a slightly saddening undertone which makes every small victory feel monumental and emotional. As someone who has been around the elderly for almost my whole life, anytime there is a moment of joy, I sometimes wonder if this will be one of the last times that I will share a laugh, or embrace them. This emotion can be felt throughout the film, all while staying lighthearted which is a testament to Margolin’s screenwriting strengths. 

Overall, it’s impossible to not love Thelma. It is a crowd pleasing film from start to finish to the point where you could feel the tears of joy flowing during the final minutes. If you have a loved one that’s a little older in age, the jokes are extremely relatable and funny without ever making fun of the elderly. Be sure to check out Thelma whenever it is available, because it’ll make your day a lot brighter.  

Thelma premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and will be released in US theaters on June 21, 2024. Read our list of 20 films to watch at Sundance 2024 and take a look at all our Sundance reviews!

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