Starring: Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard
Director: Sian Heder
Running Time: 111 mins
Tallulah is an American film about a young woman, living as a drifter in a van across the country, who takes a baby from an irresponsible mother, and then seeks refuge with her ex-boyfriend’s mother, who is under the impression that the baby belongs to Tallulah.
This is a film that should have been a devastating emotional ride. It’s all about the trials of motherhood, and the natural desire to bring up a child, even in the most difficult of circumstances. However, despite some spirited performances and a few impressive moments, Tallulah is a largely forgettable affair that spends too much time meandering around its main themes in exchange for simpler and cheaper thrills.
It’s got a lot of problems, but one thing that Tallulah really does have going for it is the performances. In the lead role, Ellen Page is excellent, and convincingly pulls off this young woman’s transition from free-thinking drifter to an increasingly mature woman who wants to take responsibility for this baby, and it was her performance that allowed me to get engaged in the moral dilemma that the film does do well.
However, Allison Janney, playing Page’s ex-boyfriend’s estranged mother, is even better. While she does play a supporting role to Page in the context of the story, Janney gives a very emotional and real performance, often making her character even more fascinating than Page’s. More often than not, I was more impressed and moved by watching her older character rethink her attitudes towards both others’ and her own life, which was definitely the best part of the film for me.
Beyond the performances, there is one part of the story that does work quite well. Ellen Page’s character steals the baby from an irresponsible older woman, and that’s a premise that introduces a very interesting moral dilemma. On the one hand, I was rooting for her to keep the baby away from such an awful mother, but on the other, the film touches heavily on the idea that it’s deeply immoral for her to rob the child of being brought up by her birth mother. It’s a dilemma that’s deliberately left open for you to decide on, and was by far the most intriguing element of the story.
Apart from that, however, the plot really isn’t that engrossing. Yes, the moral dilemma mentioned above along with Page and Janney’s strong performances allow for a few moments of emotional drama, but for the most part, Tallulah is a lot more generic and dull than it should have been. Missing out on a truly heartfelt and touching look at the various interpersonal relationships that spring up throughout the movie, it goes for a series of very predictable and seemingly cheap thrills that don’t sit well with its main themes.
For example, we’re often brought back to the situation with the irresponsible mother, who now has the police chasing down Ellen Page’s character. Firstly, I didn’t feel it was an at all necessary part of the story to add emotional tension, and secondly, it creates a series of very awkward transitions between genres, where the film changes from independent drama to a grittier chase thriller, which was very frustrating to see.
Overall, I wasn’t too impressed by Tallulah. It does have two very good central performances courtesy of Ellen page and Allison Janney, and there’s an interesting moral quandary brought to light at the centre of the movie too. However, the plot is generally meandering, slow and frustrating, too often moving away from what should have been a small, touching drama, and that’s why I’m giving Tallulah a 7.1.