Tallulah (2016) [Film Review]

Tallulah, first premiered at Sundance Film Festival before making it’s release on Netflix in January 2016. Tallulah is a cosy and compelling story of motherhood, morality and personal growth, as written and directed by Sian Heder.

The film is centred around a young, homeless drifter who unintentionally kidnaps a baby from a neglectful Beverley Hills housewife after seeking out her ex boyfriend, Nico (Evan Jonigkeit), in New York City. Panicked and desperate to seek refuge, money and food, Tallulah (Ellen Page) seeks out Nico’s estranged mother (Allison Janney) and poses that the child is Margo’s grand daughter.

As mentioned, this film primarily explores motherhood and worldly relationships as told by three complex women – Talullah, Margo and the mother of the kidnapped baby, Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard). All three deem to be wildly independent and fierce in different matters and yearn for worthy connections each in their own way. What interests me about this film is the change of tone in the relationship between Margo and Tallulah. In what begins as a fiery refraction from letting their guard down, both have the underlying desire of having to let go of their ego and release their emotional turmoil.

The mother-daughter bonds created through this film – between Tallulah and the child, and Tallulah and Margo – are incredibly unique yet raw, understated and honest. From people that seem worlds apart comes strength, unity, honesty and acceptance. Both Tallulah and Margo are scared out of their minds about what is around the corner, yet both build each other up and help each other to realise their individual strength.

I’ve been a fan of Ellen Page since seeing her in Juno (as well as Allison Janney), and her performance as Tallulah was surely a match for excellence. Her character is a content with her waif-life in a junky van, however she is a drifter by heart and wishes to travel to India, however, her homelessness and lack of resources poses a question for her lustful dreams. When Nico essentially tells her to wake up to herself and their dire way of life, Tallulah refuses to admit that she requires normality.

Allison Janney’s character, Margo, also excels in performance in this film. Margo is an emotionally sensitive woman who is going through a tough divorce. Dealing with loneliness – her ex-husband, her runaway son, and her deceased pet – Margo finds solace and a glimmer of hope when unkempt Tallulah shows up on her doorstep in search of her son, with ‘Nico’ tattooed on her hand and all. After the initial rejection Tallulah returns to Margo with an infant, which to Margo is a sign of hope to a new family and to bringing her son back home.

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Despite Page and Janney being the total powerhouses of this film, Blanchards character is also important and complex. A housewife who doesn’t get enough attention from her husband is left with a child she doesn’t know how to look after, is distracted by her desire to maintain her youth and allure and instead of focusing her energy on raising a child, she tries to replace the feeling of motherly success and nurturing with the attention of men instead. As a result, her neglect for her daughter repeats as she is neglected by her husband and by the men she seeks affection from.

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Another point made about this film is how incredibly absurd kidnapping a stranger’s baby and posing it as your own is, you never ever feel like Tallulah is immoral or dangerous. Despite her uncertainty and inexperience of motherhood, you have a sense that the child is in a safe and loving environment, despite what had happened for the child to end up in Tallulah’s care.

If you are looking for an incredible and powerful female-driven drama with a uniquely constructed plot and characters, this is the film you are looking for. I have so much respect for this film and the stories it has told. Heck, it has become one of my top ten films.

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