Director and writer Sian Heder (also a writer for Orange is the New Black) has set in place an abundance of life’s anxieties for her audience to reflect upon in Tallulah. This Netflix original movie was released at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016, and has a runtime of 1 hour and 51 minutes.
Tallulah tackles themes of friendship, motherhood, and detachment in a way we as people sometimes can’t; and what’s better is how these themes come through naturally while watching the interaction between characters.
The casted acting talents of Ellen Page (Juno) and Allison Janney (also from Juno) reunite onscreen for a compelling, unexpected friendship. There’s a motherly parallel between generations that can be drawn between their characters Lu and Margo. The two’s charismatic bond with each other begins when Lu shows up on Margo’s front door, claiming the little girl she has (the one she stole) is Nico’s, Margo’s son.
Since Lu is younger and new to the baby mama lifestyle, she and Margo find a common ground with one another; both are also foul-mouthed, witty, and have a seemingly endless supply of backfiring put-downs. Margo has already built a family and had it fall apart on her (even though she’s a published author on love), whereas Lu has no desire to follow in her footsteps. She just wants to take care of the little girl she stole.
Ellen Page’s portrayal of the movie’s main character, Lu, is one that has had an enduring impression on me. Even though Tallulah is a fictional character, I felt as though she was a person I knew for some reason, and I can’t quite figure it out.
I think it’s because Lu has such a profound personality, with just as profound problems, and this makes her relatable with anyone who watches the movie. She has so many layers that are pulled back the more the movie progresses, which makes the viewer curious to see what else happens.
Sometimes, directors go over the top and do too much when trying to capture a dramatic moment. But Heder is subtle, and the human condition can be felt through listening and watching her work, especially in this film. A favorite scene of mine from the movie happens within the first twenty minutes.
Lu and Nico have a fight about starting a life together. Afterwards, Lu steps out to go to the bathroom, and realizes she’s been locked out of her van. While yanking on the door handle to get in, Lu begins to levitate up into the dark night sky. Her face is pink, puffy, and a little wet from her soft sobs. Everything gets real quiet, and Lu is pulled up yet even further into the sky.
Heder’s ability to capture her character’s emotion with the scenes she creates really shows off how raw and enchanting her director skills are. This scene gives the audience a hint into who Lu is, and serves as a great example of how to propel a story with a hint of ambiguity.
The film doesn’t have a special story plot or mind-blowing ending that leaves you thinking, wow, I didn’t expect that one. The movie is built with a basic story plot at best, and fits under the cause-and-effect narrative form. But the inner complexity of Heder’s characters is what makes them so tangible and pleasing to watch. They aren’t perfect, but their impulsive reactions are great, leaving the viewer either curious, laughing, or maybe a little more misty-eyed than they had hoped for. It did for me anyways.
Tallulah is brutally honest to its viewer, and I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in a heartwarming dramedy.