Film Review: Tuesday


Director: Daina O. Pusić
Wild Swim Films
In Theaters 06/14

Never having been a big fan of mortality but assuming that I’ll be obligated to take part in it anyway, I always go into movies about death with a mix of curiosity and trepidation. Tuesday isn’t your average film on the subject, and that suited me just fine.

Zora (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Seinfeld, You Hurt My Feelings) is a single mother with a terminally ill teenage daughter, Tuesday (Lola Petticrew, A Bump Along The Way, Dating Amber). Unable to cope with the thought of her daughter’s passing, Zora avoids her, spending as little time at home as possible and leaving Tuesday with a home care nurse named Billie (Leah Harvey, Foundation, A Gentleman in Moscow). One day, Death (voice by Arinzé Kene, I’m Your Woman, Love Again) shows up in the form of a macaw, as Tuesday’s time has come. Not knowing what else to do, the girl tells Death a joke about penguins, making him laugh. The two bond while spending the day together. Everything is going remarkably well, all things considered, until Tuesday tries to force her mother to talk about what’s happening, and things take a rather unexpected turn. Zora and Tuesday find themselves facing fate in ways that they never could have imagined.

Writer/director Daina O. Pusić makes her big screen debut with Tuesday, and it may be the most intriguingly unique one I’ve seen in American cinema since Charlie Kaufman’s Being John Malkovich in 1999. That’s not to imply that Pusić is trying to be another Kaufman: in a strange way, Tuesday owes far more to both The Seventh Seal and even E.T. than it does to Malkovich, and yet none of these comparisons should be taken literally, because this a rare movie that feels like a wholly original vision. At times uncomfortably dark and morbidly surreal, and at others whimsical and hopeful, Tuesday is a work of art in the truest sense of the term. Pusić elegantly explores every facet of facing the end with someone you love, including fear, anger, denial, acceptance and selflessness. The eye-popping effect of the macaw is stunningly well done, and the cinematography by Alexis Zabé (The Florida Project) is atmospheric and bewitching, as is the musical score by Anna Meredith (Eighth Grade). Still, for all of these impressive elements, this divine treatise on the nature of life and death rests primarily on the richness of the story and characters.

Louis-Dreyfus is among my favorite actresses of all time, yet I could count the number of her movies that I’ve truly loved on one hand with digits left to spare. Tuesday is the big screen vehicle that has eluded her for decades, and her intricately crafted performance ranks among the finest work of an incredible career. Petticrew is enchanting and lovable as the resilient Tuesday, and Harvey gets some well earned laughs as Nurse Billie. Kene’s voice work as Death tops them all, however, mixing comedy and drama with equal aplomb and giving us the most oddly endearing grim reaper figure in film history.

Tuesday is certainly not going to be for everyone, and it’s a movie that leaves its audience with a lot to take in and ponder. Personally, I found myself leaving it feeling surprisingly happy and with a sense of comfort and peace. I also felt very glad that I have a dynamite penguin joke to keep at the ready until my time comes. —Patrick Gibbs 

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