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Imagine yourself in this situation:
You are witnessing the mother of a young toddler obviously stumbling around intoxicated in some way, complaining about how the baby won’t potty train herself and that parenthood is not like it is on TV while her child is crawling onto a balcony, and hearing that mother openly worry more about cheating on her husband and the way she looks than the health of her child.
Then imagine that mom wants you to babysit her child so she can go out. You don’t know this mother, have never met her in your life. She just leaves.
Are you mad yet?
I was mad watching this all unfold in the new movie Tallulah on Netflix. MAD. I try very hard not to judge other parents and to remember that everyone has a story but that all went out the window as I watched Carolyn- a mother who was very obviously falling apart and clearly not all there mentally- just walk out of her hotel room, leaving her one year old with a complete stranger.
“WHO DOES THAT?!”
“Call the Police…just call the police.”
“What an awful mother. I’d leave with the baby.”
All ran through my head as Carolyn came back to her hotel room hours later trashed drunk and passed out without even acknowledging her daughter OR the stranger she left her with.
Well, the stranger does leave with the baby.
Lu (Tallulah) is a reckless, homeless twenty-something, played so wonderfully by Ellen Page, who got caught up in a situation she never asked to be in. When she witnesses parenting gone wrong, she does what she thinks needs to be done and kidnaps the baby in an attempt to rescue her. She turns to her ex-boyfriend’s mother Margo (Allison Janney) for help, and the stories of these three very different “Mothers” grows in a way that caught me off guard. By the end of this film I had compassion for Carolyn (even though I still worried about the safety and well-being of her baby) and didn’t hate her anymore.
The story of Tallulah was at first written by Sian Heder (writer of Orange is the New Black) as a sort of “we aren’t all meant to be moms” tale with Carolyn as the villain, but the story took a turn when Sian herself became a mother. I had the pleasure of interviewing Sian along with a panel of other moms about the evolution of this film and the mom-shaming culture we all live in. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
“When I wrote [Tallulah], I was a nanny at all these high end hotels in LA. When
I first moved out here I felt like I had really weird experience with crazy moms and
could’ve written 10 movies about it. I had one experience with this woman who
would come to this hotel to have an affair, and she had never been alone with a
toddler before because she always had a nanny and she couldn’t bring the nanny
because [she] would tattle to her husband. So, I was hired for the night, and I
was watching her struggle with being alone with her kid. She spilled her guts to
me. It was this surreal experience of hearing about this woman who resented her
kids for taking her sexuality and her identity and was crazy upfront about it. At
that time, I was very judgmental about it. And then I became a mom myself and
had to rewrite the script. I think that made me have more empathy for the villain
in my movie, who wasn’t so appealing to me at first.”
Sian talked about casting Carolyn and said one actress told her, “I’m worried that what she’s saying… things that are my deepest darkest thoughts that I don’t want anyone else to hear… and to play that character would bring that up.”
It’s so true. Although I don’t completely abandon my children or put them in harm’s way, I absolutely feel overwhelmed and like I’m not cutting it as a mom often.
When I asked Sian what exactly made her change her focus on this film, her response was so raw and open and what a lot of us need to hear:
“Honestly, I think it was the birth of my daughter and how hard that was at the beginning.
I think I was so painfully aware of how much social media was presenting this idea of
motherhood too. My husband is a photographer and the first three months after my daughter
was born all I was doing was wandering around the house with a breast pump on, and my
hair was greasy and I had vomit all over me. Then he would take a picture of me with my
newborn out in the grass and people would be like “you’re nailing it!” and I’m like “I’m so not.”
I can imagine the people who don’t want kids and have them for the wrong reasons, or
feel pressured into it because they’re getting older, or they’re worried their husband
will leave them if they don’t. It’s so hard (being a mom) regardless that I can’t imagine
if you didn’t want it and that was pushed on you — who you would turn into after that.”
This movie is a must see. It will make you mad, sad, laugh, rage, cry, get emotional over and over and then make you think. I am encouraged after watching Tallulah to judge less and help more. To reach out to moms whether I understand the situation or not. That doesn’t mean I won’t call the authorities when I see destructive parents…that’s helping too. Every mom has a story and a struggle and it’s not my place to judge her for that…or to kidnap her baby. My job is to be a fellow mom and to help accordingly when necessary.
Take the time to watch Tallulah (not with your kids, please know there is a ton of adult language and a scene with nudity). It’s worth seeing and I hope you’ll be moved by this amazing story. It is available to stream starting TODAY on Netflix.
This post is part of my partnership with Netflix on their #StreamTeam. I received a Netflix subscription to facilitate my features, but all opinions are my own.