Cheers and grateful applause greeted the Sundance premiere of “Tallulah,” a powerful drama about motherhood starring Ellen Page as a vagabond woman-child named Lu who must grow up overnight when she kidnaps a baby.
In the movie, written and directed by Sian Heder, Allison Janney plays the mother of Lu’s boyfriend to whom she turns in distress. Together, they care for the toddler while a New York City-wide search is underway.
Heder’s screenplay doesn’t judge her damaged characters but lets them stumble forward in all their complicated messiness.
That especially applies to the mother of the stolen — or possibly rescued — baby, an alcoholic trophy wife whose regrets over bad mothering come too late. Tammy Blanchard plays the role of the derelict mother with pathos and desperation, one of the movie’s revelations.
“What I wanted was to love the character first, have mercy for her,” Blanchard told the crowd at the Eccles Theater in Park City during a Q&A just after the screening. “No matter how bad someone looks, have mercy for them, you don’t know what they’re going through.”
Heder told the crowd, as she previously told TheWrap (see video below), that the baby-napping plot was based on an encounter she had with a similar mother while working at a luxury hotel in Los Angeles. “I wanted to take the kids but I didn’t,” she said.
Page and Janney — who previously worked together in “Juno” — are powerful throughout the film as their relationship evolves.
“Tallulah” is in competition, and has been bought by Netflix for digital distribution. The streaming service already has a relationship with Heder, who has written and produced episodes of its hit series “Orange Is the New Black.”