JuliaLouis-Dreyfus-as-zora-in-tuesday

Tuesday Review: A Dour Emotional Odyssey

Losing a loved one isn’t easy under any circumstance. Having someone you care about die suddenly is about as bad as life gets. But living with the knowledge that your loved one is about to die opens your heart up to a whole other world of hurt.

When someone dies unexpectedly, we tear ourselves up, wishing we had one more day left to tell them how much they mean to us. But finding out a loved one is terminally ill means living in a black cloud of despair for weeks or months on end. It’s the type of heartache that plunders all hope and flattens out any sense of joy.

Writer-director Daina O. Pusíc’s film Tuesday tells the story of a woman struggling to cope with her terminally ill child’s imminent death, when Death itself comes knocking at their door. The movie uses a fantastical concept to delve into the heart-shattering experience of losing someone far too soon. Tuesday plunges viewers deep into the trenches of emotional despair to interrogate grief, denial, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Zora, a single mother whose terminally ill 15-year-old daughter Tuesday (Lola Petticrew) doesn’t have much time left. This cruel reality turns Zora into an emotional wreck who refuses to believe Tuesday’s time has run out.

Tuesday

Zora quits her job but chooses not to spend all the time she freed-up with her daughter. Instead, she aimlessly drifts around the city and takes afternoon naps to distract herself from the issue at hand. But Zora’s decision to bury her head in the sand can’t stop the inevitable, and the universe sends her a grim wake-up call.

Death comes knocking at Zora’s door in the form of a size-morphing talking macaw (voiced by Arinzé Kene). When Tuesday shows Death an act of kindness, the two of them bond and it agrees to keep her alive long enough to say goodbye to her mother. But this defiant mom isn’t ready to let Tuesday go, and the mother and daughter embark on a heartrending emotional journey forcing Zora to recognize her humble role in the ever churning cycle of life.

Death comes for everybody. It’s one of the only facts of life everyone agrees on. And yet, we spend much of our lives struggling to make peace with the inevitable. Engaging with these themes isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s why storytellers often explore these concepts through metaphors, fantasy, and fairytales.

Tuesday attempts to leverage its fantastical conceit to tell a resonant emotional tale but struggles to balance its darker themes with its lighter moments.

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Tuesday doles out an endless barrage of grief. It’s so fixated on death and grieving it does a poor job of counterbalancing these concepts with reminders of what Zora and Tuesday have been living for. In the rare moments when the film does attempt to inject some levity — like Death rapping along to Ice Cube’s classic track, It Was a Good Day — these moments feel laboured and out of step with what we’ve been watching.

Tuesday

Louis-Dreyfus and Petticrew, each give intense and committed performances, adding depth and nuance to thinly-sketched characters defined by their grief. Yet, Tuesday and Zora still don’t feel like three-dimensional people with a shared history so much as ideological cogs placed into a tear-jerker machine. Tuesday, for example, is the type of wise beyond her years teen that only exists in films to teach hapless adults much-needed life lessons.

I’m not above having a good cry at the end of a film. I appreciate it when a movie manages to shatter my heart into a thousand little pieces. But these intense feelings must result from the film’s plot, performances, and themes working in tandem to create a well-earned emotional payoff. 

The most profound stories about death and grieving leave audiences with a richer understanding of what it means to be alive. In the right filmmaker’s hands, two hours of screen time has the power to transform us into more enlightened and compassionate versions of ourselves. Tuesday didn’t enlighten me so much as bludgeon me into a two-hour state of gloom, its climactic moment of emotional catharsis offering little but platitudes posing as deep philosophical insights.

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