Grandma’s been scammed — but she’s not about to sit back and do nothing about it. In Thelma, a feisty 93-year-old grandmother gets conned by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson, then sets out on a treacherous quest across Los Angeles to confront the scammer and get back her $10,000.

The action-comedy invokes classic spy flicks like Mission: Impossible, while placing June Squibb at the center of the action. It marks the feature directorial debut of Josh Margolin, whose real-life grandmother helped inspire the character of Thelma.

Some movies are just a good time — and that’s Thelma

When Thelma Post is contacted by someone claiming to need money to bail her grandson Danny (Fred Hechinger) out of jail, she doesn’t hesitate. She gets the cash together and mails it out. Of course, when Danny calls shortly later, the whole thing is revealed as a scam.

As her daughter Gail (Parker Posey) and son-in-law Alan (Clark Gregg) debate whether it’s time to move Thelma into an assisted living home, she hatches a plot of her own. Fueled by a desire to prove she’s still independent and capable at her age — and by a desire to get her money back — Thelma decides to track down the scammer on her own, without letting her family in on the scheme. But to venture across LA, she’ll need to secure transport first. Enter Ben (Richard Roundtree, in his final performance) and his snazzy new motorized scooter.

From then on, the action-comedy of Thelma’s premise completely delivers, as she and Ben make their way across the city, hot on the tail of her scammer. What follows is an absolutely delightful retirement-age spin on action heroes and spy tropes. Thelma turns her hearing aids into discreet communicators to converse with her partner-in-crime. There’s a Mission: Impossible-coded retrieval, but the mission is just “get something from a high shelf”. The task of navigating pop-up ads on a computer is played with the intensity of defusing a bomb, and it’s one of the funniest sequences I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. 

But even though Thelma knows how to deliver laughs, it’s always very intentional in how the story does it. It never feels like the narrative punches down or tries to make fun of anyone for their age or abilities. Instead, the film relies on subverting action tropes with relatable realism to keep things funny. 

It helps that while the film focuses primarily on Thelma and the experiences of elderly adults, we also get a cross-generational glimpse at life through Thelma’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. We see middle-aged adults whose overbearing nature and desire to look out for their families lead them to overly-infantilize both their adult children and their elderly parents; and young adults who feel the need to assert their independence, while at the same time worry they’re fundamentally incapable of handling what life has to throw at them. At the end of the day, Thelma shows us people at any age can feel like they’re floundering through life, just trying to figure everything out.

Along with the laughs and action, Thelma stays grounded in its characters and emotions. The relationships in the film really shine. In particular, Thelma’s connection to her grandson Danny feels incredibly genuine and charming. Squibb’s performance as the feature’s leading lady is instantly endearing, and the story always preserves Thelma’s agency in aging, whether she’s a grandma asking for help with her emails or an unlikely action hero walking calmly away from an explosion.

Put simply, from start to finish Thelma was a delight. It’s full of genuine, laugh-out-loud moments, fun twists on action tropes, and earnest relationships that ground the story and keep it true to life. You’ll definitely laugh. You might even cry. And you’ll want to call your grandma when it ends.

Thelma premieres in theaters June 21.