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Grandma by Joel P West (Review)

posted Aug 7, 2015, 3:05 PM by Kaya Savas

Composer Joel P West showed off some impressive emotional nuance in his score to Short Term 12, which was only his second feature at the time. Grandma starring Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner continues to allow West to show us that he knows how to handle character-driven music with ease.

Grandma showcases how the score is meant to come from within the characters. The music is never scoring situations or just emotions. It’s really scoring the characters within these situations, giving us a true window into their emotional states as the story is being told. That’s what made his score to Short Term 12 stand out, and that’s what makes it stand out here. One could argue that this is the typical “indie” score, done with no budget and a guitar/string approach. While you could say that and not be wrong, the music itself does have a certain unique aura of its own. You couldn’t just plug this music into any indie drama and make it work. The music is too specific to the characters, and that’s why it works. Even if the score is only 30-minutes, it still works. Joel’s band The Tree Ring adds some more fleshed out instrument tracks as they did with Short Term 12.

Grandma is a wonderfully poignant score from Joel P West. Everything West put on display Short Term 12 reappears here with Grandma showing he does have a true talent with character-based musical storytelling. I found the simple approach not a sign of a low budget for this indie drama, but an intimate approach that allowed me to connect to the characters. Grandma may not have the big emotional swells, but it will connect you to a story worth listening to.