Director: Daina O. Pusić Screenwriter: Daina O. Pusić Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lola Petticrew, Leah Harvey, Arinzé Kene Distributor: A24 Running Time: 111 min. MPAA: R

Sometimes a film’s vibe can best be described by what can happen within its world. Roger Ebert once described My Neighbor Totoro as a world where little kids can stumble upon a big, fuzzy creature in the woods and curl up for a nap. By that same token, Tuesday is a film where a grim-reaper parrot can stop by to smoke weed and groove to Ice Cube. It’s that harping on the smaller moments that make this mature fantasy sore above its simple premise.

Perhaps the film works because it never slows down to explain what is probably a familiar story. The ill teenage girl Tuesday (Lola Petticrew) is soon to die and her inevitable demise earns her a visit from Death, portrayed as a size-shifting parrot voiced by Arinzé Kene. Tuesday is able to ward off death for a few hours by showing some kindness and just hanging out to talk. This relationship gets complicated when Tuesday’s mother, Zora (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), is thrown into the mix. She’s a mom who simply cannot fathom her daughter dying and will do anything to keep her alive. Anything just happens to be holding back death so that the world goes on without any creature perishing.

The greater concept of a world without death is not a very original concept, having graced the scripts of Family Guy and The Simpsons. But Daina O. Pusić’s film does a decent job finding what matters most in a story like this. The heart of the film lies in the fantastic performances of Petticrew and Louis-Dreyfus. They clash and comfort in pitch-perfect ways for a mother and daughter with a complicated relationship. Their lazy days of sitting around reading magazines is cute and believable. Tones change quickly when Tuesday later learns of the struggle her mother has been hiding from her regarding work, money, and her own mental state.

For a movie where Dreyfus sets a bird on fire and then eats it, the fantastical elements are treated with a low-key nature. They’re not so low that they plummet through the floor of a Wes Anderson dry fest, but low enough where characters can acknowledge it’s not normal to see a talking bird in the house that can make people die. A movie like this has to address the weirdness factor in such a premise, especially for the third act that almost turns into a grim reaper version of Lone Wolf and Cub. Only then can the greater tale of grief take shape and hit just right for emotional journey of Zora accepting her daughter’s departure, treated with maturity and bittersweet tenderness. In case Tuesday is too forgiving, the addition of the family nurse, Billie (Leah Harvey), provides more audience-surrogate humor, as well as some witty lines before all hell breaks loose.

Tuesday is an adult urban fantasy that sometimes meanders but often minds a certain sweetness. I could feel shades of Three Thousand Years of Longing in how the film is staged, beyond the shot of an oversized human wedged into a small room. The idea does eventually peter out as the grief acceptance becomes more of timing than realization. But the memorable moments of this picture worked so well for the heartfelt performances of the two leads. For what feels throwing everything existential at the wall, this picture does land a satisfying bullseye a few times. Also, it’s not like it’s everyday you see a film with a giant parrot vaping and talking shit about famous people he watched die.

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