Tallulah, directed by Sian Heder, is an unflinchingly honest and heartfelt film. I was quickly pulled into the harsh reality of the lives that are present in this film; true powerhouses of characters are continuously on-screen, all of which strengthen a film that is already so strong in its presentation. Let’s make our way into the world of Tallulah, through this review, and see what it has to offer.
Tallulah – played by Ellen Page – has been traveling around the country for 2 years in a van with her boyfriend Nico – played by Evan Jonigkeit. However, Nico wants to return home and see his family. This leads Tallulah back to New York, where she not only kidnaps a baby from a dangerously neglectful mother, but she also forms an unlikely friendship with the mother of the boyfriend who abandoned her. This is a film that explores the troubled lives of all these people, and connecting them all is a 1-year-old girl named Madison.
The absolute standouts of this film are its characters. Almost everyone feels real, well-defined, and worthy of meaningful development. I was continually treated to characters who (with the shortest of scenes) felt so well-rounded. First and foremost is of course Tallulah (Ellen Page). This is a person with such character to them; she’s unpredictable, full of life and has a bluntness to her that’s refreshing. She is someone who you just connect with so quickly, she is someone who you just want to learn more about, and she leads a crazy life that you just want to be a part of. It also must be pointed out (and I’ll probably be pointing it out a lot) but the performance that Ellen Page delivers is faultless. Certainly her best work to date (though to be honest, I haven’t necessarily seen her in many films – a couple but not a lot). Both the performance and the character bring you into this film and make you want to get involved in watching it.
Alongside Tallulah is Margo – played by Allison Janney – who is Nico’s mother. She is someone who is so brilliantly defined. The film seems to have almost no issue in introducing her and then making it clear just who this woman is and the issues she is dealing with. There is such a defeated tone to her, and the films journey with her and how it proceeds, is one that inevitably makes you feel good inside. Now I did say that I’d be pointing out the stellar performances of the actors in this film and here I am doing it; Allison Janney is (just like Ellen Page) faultless in the film. She completely nails her character and she so effortlessly makes you connect with her on an emotional level (when the turtle died, I welled up).
But what is also great about these characters is the connection that forms between the two of them. It’s of course troubled at first, but it’s the journey for the two of them, that makes watching them such a (troubling) delight. An almost mother daughter relationship begins to form and in those moments where its apparent, you can’t help but just smile and connect with them further. Both the characters connect so well, and so do the actresses.
I also must give some love to the performance that is delivered by Tammy Blanchard – who plays Carolyn, the mother of the kidnapped child. Wow, now this is a character that goes on a transformative journey in the film; I went from pitying her, to hating her, to feeling sorry for her. Again, this is a performance that is absolutely controlling of your attention. I couldn’t – and I didn’t want to – look away from this person who was on such a sad and self-destructive path. What works so well here is that the film doesn’t play the character in one note; we get to see inside the mind of someone who is as broken as Carolyn is, and we get to see her (slightly) redeem herself – it’s… rewarding.
This film somehow has these really strong characters at its forefront and then also has many more supporting, and all of them feel so well constructed and realised. I’m someone who loves a film that just takes its time and let’s its characters flourish – Tallulah gave me that and then some.
What it also has is an approach to its story that feels genuine. Yes it is a little predictable – nothing ever happened that I wasn’t expecting. But that still didn’t detract from the experience of watching this film. Just because I knew where certain plot points were going to lead, didn’t mean that I wasn’t fully engrossed in all of it. It’s all just so well presented and executed. When it ended and the credits rolled… I wanted more; more of Tallulah, more of Margo… just more of this pleasantly dysfunctional world.
I in the end was completely overwhelmed by just how much I enjoyed my time with this film. It’s films like this that highlight the brilliant little pieces of cinema that Netflix is offering up, and its experiences like this, that I hope to keep getting.
I’m obviously recommending ‘Tallulah’. What a wonderful little film; one that is filled to the absolute brim with brilliant characters. Do yourself a favour and watch this film.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on ‘Tallulah’ or this review. Please feel free to leave those thoughts in the comments down below. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date on when I post more ramblings, perhaps either follow this blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. As always, thank you so much for reading this, it is something that means so much to me.