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Movie Review | 'Tuesday'


The portrayal of grief is not a new concept in movies, but it’s safe to say it has never been depicted as it is in “Tuesday.” Writer-director Daina Oniunas-Pusic’s feature debut is bold and audacious, if occasionally quite uneven. Even when the film is not entirely successful as a whole, it serves its purpose as a calling card film for future projects.

In many movies, death has visited characters through people or the more cliché cloak-and-dagger grim reaper imagery. In “Tuesday,” death is personified through a talking parrot, who visits people when their time on Earth has come to an end and “kills” them with a wave of his wing. As pure imagery, the juxtaposition of a brightly colored parrot and his role in the story make for an interesting concept; something that appears so innocent and unassuming carries the weight of the world.

When Death (voiced by Arinzé Kene) shows up in the bedroom of 15-year-old Tuesday (Lola Petticrew), she knows why he has arrived. Tuesday is terminally ill, bed-ridden and requires the assistance of a nurse (Leah Harvey) to move about her home. Death isn’t used to negotiating with those he visits, but Tuesday begs for him to wait until her mother Zora (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is home before doing what he came to do. She just wants to have one last conversation with her mother.

Expectedly, Zora is not handling her daughter’s illness well. Who could blame her? “Tuesday” shows there is no roadmap to grief or instruction manual to follow step-by-step for the most accurate experience. Zora understands the severity of her daughter’s illness, but rejects the immediacy. When Tuesday asks to have a conversation, Zora demands it wait until the next day. Through a contentious back and forth, Tuesday introduces her mother to the parrot who has come to usher her into the afterlife. Tuesday finally has her mother’s attention for perhaps the last necessary conversation.

Oniunas-Pusic’s screenplay could easily point a finger at Zora for some of the unpleasant interactions with her daughter, but it also empathizes. When Zora lashes out at her daughter, she isn't yelling at her — she's yelling at the looming reality. Tuesday doesn't want to leave this Earth without knowing her mother will be as OK as she possibly can be, and Tuesday asks Death to honor that wish.

As heavy as "Tuesday" sounds, there are moments of levity throughout, sometimes to the movie's detriment. Oniunas-Pusic finds authentic, effective moments in the characters' journey through grief, but some of the humor creates a tonal imbalance. As good as Louis-Dreyfus is at running through the complicated emotions of the situation, some of her signature comedic flourishes come through at times that don't serve the movie.

But, everyone grieves differently. Humor can help in difficult times, and Zora is facing the most horrific situation a parent could imagine. The movie shows anger is just as justified as humor, which is as justified as denial or acceptance. "Tuesday '' certainly has effecting moments, with some stumbles along the way.

"Tuesday" opens Friday, June 14 at The Little Theatre.

Matt Passantino is a contributor to CITY.