THELMA – Review by Sarah Knight Adamson

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June Squibb of Nebraska (2013) fame’s new film role of Thelma, a 93-year-old widow living alone with the help of her daughter (Posey Parker) and grandson (Fred Hechinger), is a heartwarming, comical, family-themed generational saga.

Writer/Director Josh Margolin based his script on comparable adventures of his grandmother named Thelma, who encountered scammers pretending to be him and, in turn, attempted to steal money from her. Margolin has said that his grandmother didn’t go to the extent to find the robbers or confront them as in the movie, although he said that his tough-as-nails grandmother could have easily gone to the extent of Squibb’s character in the film.

Undoubtedly, Squibb’s excellent performance is the center of this heartwarming and comical film. Margolin’s even pacing, enhanced by composer Nick Chuba’s beautiful yet spirited score, keeps the audience engaged. The action scenes, while pulse-pounding, are balanced with moments of humor and heart. We see Thelma’s determination and relentless pursuit of her robbers, which keeps us on the edge of our seats. Whether she’s riding a motor scooter lickety-split through the halls of an assisted-living facility or through traffic on a dimly lit street, Margolin’s movie style keeps us engaged and intrigued.

The premise involves a scammer phoning Thelma and pretending to be a kidnapper who has taken her grandson. She needs to mail $10,000 in cash to have him released. She’s given an address to send the money and minutes after she’s sent it, she realizes her grandson is safe at home. This realization triggers a wave of emotions in Thelma, from fear to relief, and then to anger. No one likes to be duped, and in this case the robbers dealt with the wrong person.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the delightful chemistry between Squibb and her buddy in recovering her cash, the one and only Richard Roundtree of the famed movie series Shaft. Roundtree was recently in a movie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin titled Moving On. He was a love interest of Fonda’s in a charming, delightful performance by director Paul Weitz. I highly recommend that film, along with Grandma (2015), in which Weitz directed Lily Tomlin. Both Squibb and Roundtree have great playful chemistry; although Thelma simply wants to butter up to him to use his scouter, Roundtree loves her attention.

To avoid giving away any surprises, I’ll skip over the details of the film’s ending. However, I can assure you that the final scenes, featuring the amazing actor Malcolm McDonald, are a fitting conclusion to this touching and wacky family saga. Upon the end of the film, my thoughts were of Squibb and Roundtree working together in another movie, as they are delightful together. Unfortunately, Richard Roundtree passed away October 24, 2023 at 81. June Squibb is now 94 and going strong, while filmmaker Josh Margolin’s mother is 103.

As a film critic, I look forward to awards season and I’m sure Thelma will be considered; Squibb’s performance is that great. I highly recommend this family-themed generational film to anyone who enjoys a good laugh.

On a side note, it’s worth mentioning that scams like the one depicted in the movie are unfortunately not uncommon. It’s a reminder to always verify such calls, as my father-in-law learned the hard way. In 2007, he received a call from scammers pretending to be our son Keith. The fake caller was shaken up, saying, ‘I got caught fishing in Canada where it was illegal and am too embarrassed to call my dad for the money. I need $5,000 to pay the fine, transfer money to Western Union, and I’ll pick it up.’ My father-in-law sent the money, although he did get it back five years later, as Western Union needed to verify the transfer correctly. If he had called my husband, he would have known they were together in New York; Keith was nowhere near Canada—hence always verify.

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Sarah Knight Adamson

Sarah Knight Adamson has been the film and television critic for the internationally syndicated radio show Hollywood 360 for the past 15 years. Her reviews are heard live weekly on over 100+ radio stations coast to coast. Her reviews, interviews, film jury work, and event coverage are on her website: She is also a freelance writer for the esteemed entertainment website, a critic for Rotten Tomatoes, and a past Academy Award press member.