Netflix are back at it, producing content that keeps us up until 3am. First The Fundamentals of Caring, then Stranger Things, and now Tallulah – starring one of my favourite actresses, Ellen Page. Tallulah is a refreshing little gem of a film; looking at the realities of motherhood, broken families and the concept of ‘mum shaming’.
This film stands out due to the graceful and strong performances by the three female protagonists. Character is one of the main aspects of a film that I always focus on. The plot revolves around a kidnapping, which in cinema would instantly generate anxiety amongst an audience and the need for resolution. However, through the use of character development and humour, writer and director Sian Heder has created a mindful depiction of a sensitive narrative while rejecting all cliches.
Ellen Page portrays Tallulah, a free spirited drifter who acts on an impulse and kidnaps a baby from a drunken, negligent Beverly Hills house wife. The babies mother Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard) is hiding from her husband in a hotel room. Intoxicated, she hands her baby over to Tallulah, a stranger, asking her to babysit while she goes out to meet a lover. Carolyn is desperate for attention and affection, she wants a man to make her feel sexy. These promiscuous and selfish acts are a reaction to the neglect her husband has made her feel after childbirth, but also due to vanity. Carolyn mentions that she only “gave” her husband a baby so that he would notice her; already we sympathise for this little child so much and despise the mother.
Tallulah is an effective plot devise used to illustrate the variations of lifestyles women go through, as well as showing why the three protagonists are ill-equipped for motherhood. When Tallulah arrives at her ex-boyfriends mothers apartment, she states that the baby is her child. The mother, Margo (Allison Janney) is undergoing a divorce from her husband who had been having an affair with a man. In Margo’s eyes, he destroyed her perfect family, and with the arrival of Tallulah and a grandchild she begins to see hope for a new one. In spite of however much Tallulah’s strange and hippy ways annoy Margo, their relationship develops around the formation of this new family, while somewhere in the city Carolyn is hysterical, coming to the realisation of what she has lost when it is too late.
This feature is an adaptation of Sian Heder’s short film Mother. She has successfully portrayed a grounded narrative which centres around an uncomfortable and tragic reality, while constructing a notion of empathy for an awful mother and her child’s kidnapper. The empathetic connections the audience make is why we find these characters loitering around our minds long after the end of the movie.