Talullah is sort of an adventure film. In it Ellen Page plays Talullah, a nomad living out of her van who kidnaps a baby from a neglectful rich mother named Carolyn, played by Tammy Blanchard. Carolyn’s a drunk; she doesn’t change the baby’s diapers and lets it roam around on the balcony of her high-rise apartment with abandon. After running off with the toddler while Carolyn sleeps off a drunken night, Talullah connects with her old boyfriend’s mother (played by Allison Janney) who lets her and the baby stay, having convinced her it’s her own granddaughter.
It’s a story of picking up the pieces. Janney’s Margo is estranged from her husband, who cheated on her and left with a man three years before. Carolyn is struggling to love the child who in her eyes tore her marriage apart. And Talullah herself is trying to reconcile an aimless life with a reckless attempt at stability.
She thinks she’s doing the right thing. And the film does a good job of taking you along for that ride. She’s stolen a baby but brings it into an empathetic and compassionate household. You can’t help but suspect it’d be better off.
Of course, Margo is reluctant at first, obviously. But Talullah is wily, and while it may not have been her original plan to use a baby as a bargaining chip for a place to stay, it becomes a useful in. As it turns out, someone to care for is exactly what Margo’s needed for a long time. Her husband’s departure eventually prompted her son to strike on his own with Talullah, and it’s been two years since she’s had love of any kind in her life.
Margo’s leap of faith is a dangerous one, even if she doesn’t know it. She’s never met Talullah before, but because of her connection to her son, entertains the fantasy of playing house to fill that void. It’s a grave situation Talullah’s created. It’s a false bubble of safety while elsewhere in Manhattan a worried mother and the police track a kidnapped child. Margo pushes logic out the window and it’s only from the mouth of her estranged husband does reason emerge. Margo is damaged, and in her own way if she can seem together in front of him, the hurt he put her through will sting a little less.
The film concludes competently enough, though at points dips into silly on-the-run clichés. Talullah’s boyfriend reappears in New York and attempts to let her make a getaway, inventing a cockamamie story that might get her off the hook. And that felt a bit contrived. He could’ve never shown up again and that would have been fine. And there’s an awkward standoff with the police. Talullah claims Caraloyn doesn’t even want her baby, and the detective looks to her as if they would just let the kidnapper go if she said no.
And while the law eventually catches up to Talullah and she’s taken away in handcuffs, the film seems to want to shine a hopeful light on the rest of her life. Just before she’s carted away, Margo vows to “do whatever she can to bring her home.” Basically saying, “I’m rich and I’ll take care of it.” When in reality, a runaway girl made her an unwitting accomplice to kidnapping, not to mention the untold amounts of money she’s been stealing from her for 2 years.
Sure, the point is that Talullah got Margo to recognize the things about herself that need fixing by doing something that partially makes amends for her selfish past. But against the backdrop of real, serious crime, I would’ve expected an ending involving more punishment.