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Tuesday (2024) Review: Bold, Flawed Debut Film

A young girl in a wheelchair sits with a giant parrot in front of her in a still from the film Tuesday

The debut film from Daina Oniunas-Pusić, Tuesday boldly blends genres with a sense of style, even if this blending muddles its messaging and familiar themes.

Director: Daina O. Pusić
Genre: Fantasy
Run Time: 111′
US Release: June 7, 2024 (limited), June 14, 2024 (nationwide)
UK Release: TBA
Where to watch: in theaters

I must say, I believe Tuesday is the first film I’ve seen that features a shot from the perspective of an ear canal. Such creative uses of visuals and camerawork are littered throughout Tuesday, the feature-length debut from Croatian director Daina Oniunas-Pusić. In the film, terminally ill teenager Tuesday (Lola Petticrew) and her mother Zora (Julia Louis-Drefyus) confront Death, personified as a parrot who is able to change sizes, talk, and even smoke some weed.

Such a fantastical concept needs a creative vision to fully make it work, and Oninuas-Pusić’s direction brings that creativity to the forefront. Shots from unusual angles and some beautiful shot compositions give the film a lively energy, even as (I will touch on later) the story begins to fall flat. The mix of fantasy and real-life drama also contributes to the film’s energy, and the tone bounces back and forth between family drama, comedy, and even horror (thanks again to some of the ways the parrot is shot and some musical cues in the film’s score, courtesy of Anna Meredith).

Does this mix of tone and genres fully work, though? The answer to this question is probably going to depend on the experience of the viewer. Some early reviews are already calling the film a tonal disaster, while others are praising its audacity. It’s complicated, because I find the premise (the parrot as Death, specifically) to be quite fun, a comedic twist on The Seventh Seal. The film seems more confident in itself when it leans into those weirder conceptions. At the same time, it’s hard to see how these creative choices fuel the overall purpose of the narrative. Why is Death a parrot, exactly?

The film’s message of accepting death as a part of life, as a result of the tonal inconsistency, feels muddled and even contradicted in some of the film’s climactic moments. Much of the film revolves around Tuesday’s relationship to the bird, even cleansing it from its “filth” in an early scene (The bird, covered in a dark soot, washes itself in Tuesday’s sink, a visual sign, at least from my perspective, of Tuesday accepting death as natural or even beautiful). This complicated relationship is undercut by moments of poor scripting, dialogue, and overt sentimentality that teeters on the edge of melodrama. Rather than continuing to rely on her mis-en-scéne and visual storytelling, Oninuas-Pusić lets her script get in the way a bit too often, leading to “talky” scenes that go for the emotions but don’t always land.

A mother holds a daughter's hands and they are both crying while leaning on some rocks in a still from the film Tuesday
Tuesday (A24)

Part of the script’s less-than-satisfying moments hinder the performances as well. Starting with Louis-Dreyfus, Zora often feels like an older, motherly version of Drefyus’ Seinfeld character, not giving the actress much room to explore her character in a unique way. As the film progresses, getting simultaneously whacky and emotional, Dreyfus begins to settle in, because she breaks out of the mold she and the audience have set for herself. Petticrew gives the best performance, examining the myriads of emotions that come with the acceptance of death, while Arinzé Cane does memorable voice work as Death himself. Each performer does what he or she can with the material, but the film often feels so sporadic, the actors don’t always seem to know what tone they are aiming for.

When watching a debut film, it’s exciting to see what new idiosyncrasies and style the director can bring to the art form. In that sense, Tuesday is worth seeing. The film boldly explores the idea of accepting death, the effects death can have on loved ones, and why the world actually needs death and how that can be viewed as a beautiful thing. But some of these questions and ideas can easily elude the audience, who remain focused on the film’s more outgoing features. Tuesday, therefore, will truly generate discussion, but perhaps not in the way it wants.

Tuesday is out now in US theaters.

Tuesday: Trailer (A24)
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