We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

Happy New Year, Grandma! is a black comedy that forgot one half of the mixture. The film, too busy descending into its own personal hell, misplaces its laughter somewhere along the way—between, say, the brutal bludgeoning of a dog and the attempted infanticide. Yet, in his directorial debut, Telmo Esnal shows he’s pretty damn good doing diabolical. His film begins in San Sebastián in Basque Country, where an aging, well-to-do couple, Maritxu and Joxemari, are losing their minds taking care of Maritxu’s 88-year-old mother Mari (played by an elegant Montserrat Carulla). Grandma, otherwise mute, shrieks in the dead of night, makes messes, and pisses on the floor—and after a few scenes, it becomes clear her little accidents are far from accidental. Yet Maritxu can’t bear to put her mother in a home. Against his wife’s wishes, Joxemari enlists his daughter and son-in-law, Miren and Kintxo, to help him ditch the old lady in a retirement facility. Guess what: The crafty old bag foils ’em, and next thing they know, she’s out on the town, racking up bills at fancy hotels and ditching cab fare. Gradually, her hijinks devolve into the brutal—and bloody. But Esnal lets this family tear itself to pieces before Maritxu attempts to answer the big question: Why, Grandma, why?