Is 'Tallulah' A True Story? Ellen Page's New Movie Has Unbelievable Origins

After appearing together in Juno and Touchy Feely, Ellen Page and Allison Janney are costarring in the new dramedy Tallulah. The film first premiered at Sundance in January 2016, and is available on Netflix July 29. Its story is that of a wayward young woman named Tallulah (Page) who rescues a baby from a neglectful mother, then tricks her ex-boyfriend's mother (Janney) into believing that the child is Lu's own. It's a complex tale that examines issues of morality and loyalty, but is Tallulah a true story?

Although the exact characters and narrative are not based on actual people and events, Tallulah's story has real-life roots. The film is based on director Sian Heder's 2006 short film Mother, which was inspired by her own experiences. In Mother, an impoverished girl finds herself unexpectedly babysitting the toddler of a hotel guest, and she experiences a strong need to save the child from its irresponsible mother. Tallulah takes this premise several steps further by bringing in the storyline involving Janney's character, but at the core of both films is the dilemma of how to protect children who are victims of neglect. And this concept was derived from a true event in Heder's own life.

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When Heder first came to LA to pursue a career in show business, she supported herself by working as an on-call babysitter for the children of guests at expensive hotels. It was an ideal "survival job," but an experience that Heder had one particular night changed the way that she viewed the responsibility of parenthood, she recalled to The Frame. On this night, the young writer was assigned to care for a child whose wealthy mother had come to the hotel for the sole purpose of having an affair. The woman was intoxicated and had no idea how to care for the child, and Heder felt compelled to do something. She reported the situation to the hotel, only to be informed that nothing could be done since there was no actual abuse taking place.

"I actually cried on the way home," Heder told The Frame. "And then I sat down immediately and wrote this scene ... [that] became the short. I was just, 'I have to write that down.' That was one of the weirdest things that's ever happened to me. I just knew there was something to it. So I shot a short."

That short was Mother, and after writing it, Heder decided to adapt the story into a feature film. According to the LA Times , Heder combined the narrative of Mother with an idea she'd had for a story about a poor girl living out of a van, and so Tallulah was born. The screenplay was picked up by Route One Entertainment and Blue Ocean Entertainment, and Janney and Page signed on to star in 2015.

So although the specific plot of Tallulah is not a true story, the films pulls from an unusual real-life event. It also poses some important questions about motherhood, and is certain to make viewers reflect on their own experiences and values.

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