Musical Score By: Joel P. West

Songs By: Flood Coats, The Tree Ring and Angus and Julia Stone

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                In Grandma, Lily Tomlin is Elle Reid, a lesbian poet coping with the recent death of her long term partner and the break-up of a short term relationship.  When her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up at her doorstep pregnant and in need of money for an abortion, there is no question that Elle will help her, but she’s broke.  What follows is a day-long road trip in which Elle and Sage make unannounced visits to friends, flames and foes in an effort to get their hands on the cash Sage needs.

                The Grandma Soundtrack features songs by Flood Coats, The Tree Ring and Angus and Julia Stone.  The musical score of the film was created by songwriter and composer Joel P West.  Immersing himself in the wilderness and open space of North America, West draws inspiration from nature to create his music.  In addition to working with the bands, The Tree Ring and Flood Coats, West has written musical scores for Short Term 12, About Alex, Band of Robbers and more.

                According to West, ““In a lot of ways, Grandma is a road trip movie even though it just takes place in Elle's neighborhood.  Paul [Weitz, writer/director] wanted to capture that energy in the moments that Elle and Sage are connecting in the car, so we incorporated a lot of folk music elements to capture that fun, rollicking feeling of driving around with a friend.”  The Grandma Soundtrack begins with dramatic piano/synth music, dealing with Elle’s losses and depression – “Since this film focuses on Elle as she reflects on her life, I started by scoring the two long scenes where she is alone.  The first scene takes place at the start of the film, when she spends some time looking through old memories after breaking up with Olivia, and the second happens at the end when she takes a cab by herself later in the film. When Elle is around other people she is outspoken and abrasive, but those two moments let us see how vulnerable and lonely she is, and how she misses Violet and is realizing that her life and work are winding down.”  Being Maudlin presents a tone of loss with a reflective nature, featuring harps and strings.

                As the two continue on their journey, there are lighter moments performed on synths, strings and guitars.  Every so often, that sad feeling returns, but there is something about Elle’s journey with Sage that brings out a lighter side in Elle.  The songs on the soundtrack have an indie style to them and speak to the emotions of the film.

                All-in-all, I found the soundtrack of Grandma to be a relatively short, but enjoyable musical journey.  I think the musical score adequately describes Elle’s feelings before, during and at the end of the journey with her granddaughter.  The songs also represented the film’s emotional side well.  Definitely a soundtrack worth taking a listen to.


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