In news, non-illustrated, Review

Death has taken many forms in the movies over the years: the Grim Reaper, a chess-playing specter, and even Jessica Lange. The new film TUESDAY, written and directed by Daina Oniunas-Pusic, has one of the more unique personifications – that of a macaw. The bird can also change its size at will, transforming from 10 ft. tall to mere inches in seconds, and it talks in a low-register, working-class English accent too. The feathered frightener has a lot to say about life and death, as does Pusic’s film. It’s complex, odd, often outrageous, yet utterly fascinating, serving as both a study in mortality and maverick indie cinema.

That sense of unorthodoxy announces itself immediately as the lead in the film which takes place in the UK is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, one of the finest actresses from the United States. The fact that her voice doesn’t even suggest a trace of an English accent, despite living in England and having a teen daughter named Tuesday (Lola Petticrew) who speaks with a heavy one, lands as strikingly unusual. Oniunas-Pusic is not only being a provocateur here, but she’s preparing us for more surprises and headscratchers to come.

The biggest surprise arrives with that macaw. It’s not only huge but a filthy, mangy bird to boot. (We’ll find out why it’s so dirty later on in a spellbinding bathing sequence.) As it visits those whose time is up, the bird calmly but swiftly takes their life with a quick pass of his wing over their heads. The macaw isn’t violent, but with his brusque accent, he’s pretty chilling. Arinze Kene supplies the voice and has a rumbling baritone worthy of Darth Vader and Bill Sikes. His voice doesn’t bother Tuesday much however when the macaw comes-a-callin’ to the flat where the invalid is hooked up to a breathing apparatus and confined to a wheelchair. In fact, for a girl on the cusp of her demise, she’s got a whole lot of piss and vinegar left in her.

Tuesday argues with the bird, gets into philosophical discussions with it, and builds a snarky rapport that makes the film darkly humorous. When her mom shows up to join in the argument, the macaw realizes that despite his task at hand, neither of these women is going to give up the ghost without a fight. The measures that they both go to in their avoidance, particularly the machinations of Louis-Dreyfus’ character, end up as both shocking and bizarre. In a modern film world where most audiences can get ahead of a plot in the first 20 minutes, Oniunas-Pusic’s story continually traffics in shock and awe.

At times, the eyelines are a little off as the two women chat with the macaw, and the film is perhaps a few minutes too long, but most of it is riveting. Petticrew is both cheeky and moving and Louis-Dreyfus aces all the angst as well as those moments of comedy that you knew she’d nail. Additionally, Leah Harvey lends superb support in her plucky role as Tuesday’s nurse. The bird looks entirely real throughout and Kene’s pauses and hesitations in his voicework lend pathos to his intimidating, antagonistic role. You almost feel sorry for the bird. Almost.

Ultimately, this is the filmmaker’s major accomplishment as she challenges those on screen and off to consider what constitutes living and what we make of each day on this planet. I think if you choose to attend a screening of TUESDAY in the cinemas this weekend, you’ll have chosen wisely, making the most of those two hours in a given day.

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