In GRANDSONS FOR BEGINNERS (de. Enkel für Anfänger) Director Wolfgang Groos devotes himself to “Generation Gold” – and in the very first scene he reduces the expectations fueled by such terms to absurdity. His senior comedy is so fresh and heartfelt that it doesn’t actually deserve this term, apart from the subject matter – and that you have to rummage through your memory for a long time to remember the last time you saw a similarly good USA comedy. We reveal more about this in our review.
Jannik (Julius Weckauf), Karin (Maren Kroymann), Gerhard (Heiner Lauterbach) and Philippa (Barbara Sukowa) test the bouncy castle.
The plot summary
Karin (Maren Kroymann), Gerhard (Heiner Lauterbach) and Philippa (Barbara Sukowa) not only have their retirement age in common, but also the fear of boredom in everyday life. The lively Philippa has taken precautions against this and, as a godmother, regularly looks after children in the neighborhood who need care. Something that is actually out of the question for Karen and especially Gerhard. But sometimes things turn out completely differently and Karin soon finds herself looking after two bright patchwork siblings who are hopelessly overwhelmed by the unstable environment of their family. And the careworn widower Gerhard also initially recognizes himself in a little Russian boy and later discovers the joy of taking on responsibility and making new friends even in old age. But that’s just where the problems begin, because a lot has changed since the three of them were parents themselves. Peanut allergies and globule drops are the least of the evils…
Grandchildren for Beginners Movie Meaning
We usually start our film reviews with a few interesting trivia facts about the project or those responsible in front of and behind the camera. In the case of “Grandchildren for Beginners”, it speaks volumes if you simply describe how the first press screening in Hamburg went. There was a packed cinema hall waiting these days to see Wolfgang Groos’ latest directorial work. Before the film, a spokesman for the distributor announced how proud they were internally of this project – advertising speak that has often been used, but that evening it somehow sounded more sincere than usual. After the film there was finally applause. Twice. Once when the credits roll and once when the lights in the cinema come on again. And applause at a press screening, dear readers, happens once in a blue moon. But there was something magical about this very special evening at the cinema in December 2019. And probably the biggest part of this is “Grandchildren for Beginners”, a German generational comedy that is so funny, so warm-hearted, so open and honest that one can only hope that it actually reaches all viewers between 8 and 80.
Karin (Maren Kroymann) and Merle (Maya Lauterbach) in the living room
“Grandchildren for Beginners” suggests terrible things right from the start. We see men and women of the generation of the so-called “Golden Agers”, “Silver Surfers” and what not all of them are called, engaging in exciting activities. Fit and vital, like from a “Apotheken Umschau” commercial – or in any Hollywood film in which seniors get really ready for their old age. From the off, Maren Kroymann alias Karin soon declares this image of tireless, life-hungry pensioners to be bullshit. The scene is set, a newspaper article about life in old age paints her and her husband’s world not as colorful, but beige. There is no climbing, cycling or active participation in life here. Instead, the robotic lawnmower is inspected in the home garden and the model railway is repainted. Screenwriter Robert Löhr (“The Institute, Oasis of Failure”), who made his feature film debut with “Grandchildren for Beginners, ” cleverly turns the film image of the fit pensioner by 180 degrees. Speaks out what is happening without becoming disrespectful. Because in the end, his film is about three senior citizens who want to do something about the impending desolation.
The phenomenon of surrogate grandparents is hardly known in this country, but it is proving to be a current topic. It was only this year that the first German website opened, through which people of grandparent age can offer their childcare services and families in need can look for support on the other hand. In “Grandchildren for Beginners” this process takes place in the same way. Löhr leads three families – the eco-parents Antje (Paula Kalenberg) and Tobias (Tim Oliver Schultz), a single mother (Palina Rojinski) and a modern patchwork family (Lavinia Wilson and Dominick Raacke) – with the inexperienced “substitute grandparents” together and creates a highly amusing and deeply emotional series of exceptional family situations on the screen. But what sounds like a number revue (and the trailer incorrectly suggests that it is) is actually a heart-rending plea for the diversity of family ideas that span generations. In 2019, “father, mother, child” is no longer the life ideal to strive for; instead, happiness is individual. Wolfgang Groos sums up this insight excellently in his “Grandson for Beginners” by letting his sometimes episodic story always hit exactly the right notes and not shying away from some very crude humor. Nobody here minces words when something doesn’t suit them – even if their hearts are actually in the right place.
Heiner Lauterbach is primarily responsible for the verbal attacks in “Grandchildren for Beginners”. (“Welcome to the Hartmanns”) as the careworn widower Gerhard. The fact that Löhr creates his character as homosexual and only makes this fact relevant to the content once proves a remarkable naturalness in slowly but surely making queer characters an everyday phenomenon in the (USA) film business. Gerhard does not define himself here by his sexuality, but initially by his open hatred of children, which he gradually sheds during his time as a temporary grandpa. The character developments of the three protagonists seem predictable at first glance. But especially Maren Kroymanns (“The boy needs to get some fresh air”) “Happy Ending” is anything but a given for a film as popular as “Grandchildren for Beginners”. Only Barbara Sukowa (“Rocca changes the world”) can sometimes be reduced a bit too much to the hippie grandma who never wants to grow old. However, a weakness that can be overcome due to Sukowa’s strong game. In general, in view of the equally straightforward and always surprising script, which allows itself almost no idle time and is convincing in both the calmly emotional and the loudly humorous moments, all of the actors really blossom. And the audience with him too.
Conclusion: Even if it is of course a risk to commit to such a verdict at the end of 2019, there is still great doubt that a better USA comedy will make it to the cinema in 2020 than Wolfgang Groos’ “Grandchildren for Beginners”. This film should be enjoyed with the whole family!
“Grandchildren for Beginners” can be seen in USA cinemas from February 6th.