Tallulah is one of the latest films released by Netflix – it shouldn’t go unnoticed.  Sian Heder’s drama touches upon a specific genuineness that separates it from the rest of the streaming service’s feature films.

Free-spirited recluse Tallulah (Ellen Page) is scraping through life with her bohemian boyfriend Nico (Evan Jonigkeit).  When they’re separated after a dispute, Tallulah travels to Nico’s original homebase of New York City.  There, she stumbles into an unfortunate situation where she’s mistaken for a hotel employee by aloof lush Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard).  In the heat of the moment, Tallulah is told to look after Carolyn’s baby girl, to which she decides to remove the child from its unfit upbringing.

Tallulah is tense and deliberately uncomfortable during these beginning moments of sorrow and reflection.  However, writer/director Heder finds the story’s spark in the chemistry between Tallulah and Nico’s mom Margo (Allison Janney).  Heder sets up a familiar dynamic between Page and Janney ensuing in exchanges that allow uptight Margo to relax with the help of her son’s girlfriend, however the revolutions discovered by Margo are not played as clichéd discoveries with sappy results.  Tallulah feels real, and each developmental step allows Janney and Page to speak with quiet emotions as equally with their outspoken and blunt opinions.

Heder (who found her calling writing episodes of Netflix’s lauded Orange Is the New Black) has obviously soaked in knowledge pertaining to character work – she has a natural knack for using familiarity as an example to build on.  The most impressive case is when she finds ways to elaborate on Blanchard’s distraught trophy wife, a role that could’ve been unrelatable if it wasn’t for Heder’s wise decision to use those seemingly superfluous details as a baseline for the actress.

Award ceremonies have acknowledged Netflix’s television shows, but the acceptance of Netflix’s movies on an award-worthy playing field has been tough (Beasts of No Nation got very close to bridging this gap).  The films, however, can’t be ignored anymore: if Tallulah is an example of the type of grandeur acting showcase the service can produce or acquire, it’s about time these independent projects are considered alongside major releases.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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