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Review: Bad decisions lead to female connections in ‘Tallulah’

Ellen Page in the movie "Tallulah."
(Netflix)

Themes of motherhood, abandonment, loss, family and female identity are plumbed to their depths in Sian Heder’s feature directorial debut, “Tallulah.” Heder, a writer for “Orange Is the New Black,” reached into her own life experiences to write and direct the film, starring Ellen Page in the titular role as a nomadic young woman who has no attachments to any place or thing. She does, however, have a knack for attaching herself to people — her boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit), Nico’s mother, Margo (Allison Janney), and a baby she accidentally babysits, then accidentally kidnaps, in a good faith effort to keep her safe.

“Tallulah” the film and Tallulah the person are both difficult to love at times. “Lu” takes too long to get off the bad-decision train, and the film indulges her. While the premise often feels overly hysterical and contrived, Heder has a lot to say about motherhood and personhood and the ways in which women have to reconcile those identities throughout life.

Page manages to make feral youth Lu irresistible, and Janney is regal, warm and vulnerable as Margo, struggling with loneliness after her divorce. Her character’s evolution is beautifully expressed. Tammy Blanchard plays Carolyn, the negligent mother whose child Lu snatches, and she’s lovely when given the opportunity to slow down, but mostly her breathy bimbo performance hinders the character.

Despite the melodrama, the connections these women forge are heartfelt and earned. Even if the tale is a bit much to be believed at times, it’s unlikely you’ll see a film more refreshingly honest and incisive about motherhood than “Tallulah.”

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‘Tallulah’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes

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Playing: Arclight Hollywood; also streaming on Netflix


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