Director: Sian Heder
Cast: Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard, Uzo Aduba
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Tallulah is a funny and poignant look at how complicated motherhood and family can be. Ellen Page stars as Lu, a free-spirit who, along with her boyfriend Nico, lives out of her van. When he tires of her lifestyle, he unceremoniously leaves and she eventually finds herself kidnapping a young infant from a negligent mother and turning to the only responsible adult she can think of, Nico’s mother Margo (Allison Janney) who believes the baby is her granddaughter. Sharing a moment of relationship crisis, the two end up thrown together as Lu tries desperately to figure out just how this kidnapping situation will end.
Janney and Page have easy chemistry that’s fun to watch. They bounce off one other with ease and make for a great odd couple both physically - Page's boyish, short frame next to Janney's tall, slender one - and emotionally with Margo finding comfort in a more controlled, fixated environment compared to Lu’s impulsive demeanor.
Outside of Page and Janney, I was impressed with negligent mother Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard). When we first meet her, it's flooring how much of a mess she is and it makes sense that Lu doesn't want to leave the kid in her sole custody. But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that Carolyn is less malicious and more lost than originally assumed. It not only makes her a more fully developed character but is a nice reminder that rarely is anyone purely good or evil.
Another highlight is Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba as a pregnant social worker tasked with investigating Carolyn’s parenting abilities. Her no-nonsense reproach of Carolyn speaks to what the audience is thinking about this harried, manic mother and her hysterical reaction to losing her infant daughter.
This directorial debut from Sian Heder was originally based on Heder’s 2006 short Mother. As her debut, it’s a solid effort. Sometimes its imagery and themes get a little heavy-handed, particularly when it comes to a gravity-defying scene at the end that is equal parts cheesy and cringe worthy way. Still, it’s sweet to see how Lu, Margo, and baby Maddy/Maggie help each other open up, even if it does so in a predictable, albeit engaging way.