Review: ‘Tuesday’

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Faces The Feathered Spirit Of Death In Surreal, Fufilling Fairy Tale About Grief

The spirit of Death is such that it can take virtually any form, but most often it is seen as a bird of some kind. Maybe it’s the idea of flying one’s spirit into the afterlife. In Daina O.Pusić’s surreal, emotionally powerful Tuesday, Death takes the form of a talking macaw with a fondness for Ice Cube.

Voiced by Arinzé Kene, Death appears before the dying, and with a flap of its wing sends them to the great beyond. It is a monumental undertaking, so much so that the bird is constantly tormented by the pleas of the doomed, many begging for mercy in their dying moments. The cries are persistent, ever present, and we can’t help but feel that Death is experiencing a form of torment, as well. There is no pleasure in this eternal task, necessary as it is.

The film isn’t named for the bird, but for Tuesday (Lola Petticrew), a terminally ill, wheelchair-bound young woman. When Death comes calling, Tuesday nervously tries to talk her way out of it. She disarms the bird with a lame joke; Death’s laughter ringing out so loud it surprises them both. Suddenly, voices vanish from its mind, and Death opens itself up to a little bit of self-care, allowing Tuesday to literally wash away the darkness from its feathers.

All of this friendly banter between a dying girl and a feathered spirit of Death could be mawkish or silly, but it’s to Pusić’s credit that Tuesday doesn’t make us want to run away screaming. Did I mention that Death and Tuesday bond over their mutual appreciation for Ice Cube’s “Today was a Good Day”, a song that beautifully encapsulates so much of what the film stands for. While the N.W.A. rapper waxes poetic about one fine day in the ‘hood, put in another context it could be for anyone who has been through too much and is just happy for one good day free from it.

Some people would rather not deal with the tough times at all, and that’s where Julia Louis-Dreyfus enters the picture, showing she’s so much more than a comedic genius. She makes us laugh and weep as Zora, Tuesday’s mother who is in such denial about her daughter’s impending death it manifests as arrested development. Zora avoids her daughter as much as possible, spending her days at the park, lying about being employed, and pawning off valuables to make money. Clearly, it’s not Zora who is the mature one in this household. Death is kind enough to allow Tuesday a chance to inform Zora about what’s coming, and the result is for her mother to do something childishly irrational…something that takes Death off the table for a while.

That part should go unspoiled because it’s pretty incredible and very funny, but what’s even better is what Pusić does with it. While the film largely avoids the details of what Death does, it acknowledges that people actually NEED to die for the world to function. What happens when people stop dying? The world gets thrown into chaos, that’s what. Entering into fascinatingly bizarre territory, Zora actually takes up the mantle of Death for a spell, and true to her immature nature, she has way too much of a good time handling such a terrible responsibility. It’s interesting that Zora has no problem delivering death, but never grasps the necessity of it to alleviate the pain and suffering being felt.

While Tuesday herself is something of a thinly constructed character, Petticrew’s performance is anything but. They project the wisdom of someone well beyond their years, but also has the impulsiveness and spirit of someone their age. Petticrew and Louis-Dreyfus together craft a believable mother/daughter relationship, one with love and tension in equal measure.

It’ll come as no surprise that Zora gets through the many stages of grief and comes to accept her daughter’s death, but her journey to getting there soars to many unexpected places. Some will say that Pusić’s use of magical realism is naturally reductive and childish, but it’s the surreal that helps all of us understand ideas that are too big to comprehend. There’s nothing reductive or childish about the depths of Zora’s pain, or Tuesday’s loneliness at having to cope with death before she’s had the chance to fully experience life. Death is something none of us will ever fully understand, and Tuesday embraces that with a strange, otherworldly tale that is fulfilling for people of any age.

Tuesday is open in select theaters now, opens in DC on June 14th.

Travis Hopson
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-tuesdayThe spirit of Death is such that it can take virtually any form, but most often it is seen as a bird of some kind. Maybe it's the idea of flying one's spirit into the afterlife. In Daina O.Pusić's surreal, emotionally powerful Tuesday, Death...