Netflix’s filmic arm continues to grow in stature and Tallulah is a fine example of the kind of project they do particularly well. It reunites Juno’s Ellen Page and Allison Janney, in an absorbing and entertaining story about relationships. Page (who has complained that she struggles to find decent screen roles since coming out as gay, obviously knows a good script when she sees one – she executive-produced this film).

Tallulah (Page) is a rootless young woman, who lives in a van and drifts around America making ends meet by indulging in petty crime. Her boyfriend, Nico (Evan Jonigkeit) is however, beginning to miss the stability of his former home (he hasn’t been back there for two years) and suggests that they pay a call on his mother, Margo (Janney) an academic living alone in a luxury New York apartment after her husband left her and moved in with a man. Tallulah is less than keen on the idea and she and Nico have an argument. The following morning, Tallulah wakes to discover that Nico has walked out on her.

She promptly heads off to Margo’s apartment asking if she has seen Nico, but Margo sends her packing. Shortly afterwards, Tallulah has a chance encounter with Carolyn (Tammy Blanchard) a character who initially seems to have been created to illustrate a ‘how not to parent’ video. Carolyn has a hot date that night and enlists Tallulah (who she’s never met before) to look after her toddler while she’s gone – but Tallulah decides to take the little girl and heads back to Margo’s place…

Tallulah is a decidedly amoral character but Page invests her with great charm, hinting at the damage that was caused to her when she was abandoned by her own mother as a little girl; Janney meanwhile, is on terrific form as a prickly introvert woman who finds all relationships difficult – her clumsy attempt to seduce an amorous doorman is a delight. As the two women spend time in each other’s company, a powerful bond develops between them; but meanwhile, the police are investigating what is, after all, a kidnapping and it soon becomes apparent that things cannot end well for Tallulah.

This is a superior slice of drama, nicely acted, wittily scripted and directed by Sian Heder. More than anything else, it’s a film about women and their relationships – and it absolutely aces the Bechdel test. If you have Netflix, you really should check it out. If you don’t, this could be a valid reason to sign up.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

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