Starring Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, Tully is a comedy-drama that shows us a raw and emotional side to motherhood that might not have gotten the spotlight before, as well as the importance of solidarity and empathy towards mothers.
No one in the world right now can say that being a mother is an easy job, but not a lot of people who aren’t mothers can truly express just how difficult it can be —physically, emotionally, and mentally. It’s this more nuanced and more difficult struggle that Tully shows audiences in an honest, heart-breaking, yet humorous way.
The film is written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, marking the fourth project that the pair has collaborated on. In the past, Cody and Reitman have worked on Jennifer’s Body (2009), the critically acclaimed Juno (2007), and most recently, Young Adult (2011), which also starred Charlize Theron.
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Theron, who plays Marlo in Tully, is a mother of two with a third on the way. This unplanned pregnancy has not come at the best time for Marlo and her husband Drew, due to how young their first children are and the fact that one of them, Jonah, has an undiagnosed developmental disorder. Marlo’s world is brimming with tension and stress — between Drew always being pulled away on business trips, her pregnancy, and two children who need more attention that she could possibly give, it’s a warzone. And if that’s not enough, their new-born enters the picture and the anarchy has tripled.
Moviegoers are no strangers to seeing the pressures of motherhood on screen, but what Tully does differently is in the biting honesty of its portrayal. Theron is fearless in her role, displaying each and every unglamorous reality of maternity. Beyond the physical truths — rarely washed hair, three-day-old clothes, eye bags, and post-birth baby weight (which films rarely ever depict) — there is the emotional aspect of motherhood that Theron so deftly captures. It’s the overwhelming exhaustion, the frantic stress, the glazed look when she’s at the end of her rope — these are the things that is depicted so well, making audiences really think to themselves: Wow, mothers go through so, so, so much.
Then enters Tully.
Tully (Mackenzie Davis) is a night nanny who, as a gift from Marlo’s wealthy brother, is hesitantly hired by the family. Bright, young, and bohemian, Tully watches over the children so Marlo and Drew can rest. However, as the film goes on, audiences see that Tully does not only care for children but ends up caring for Marlo as well. She extends empathy without judgment, understanding without limits, and presence without any pretence. And sometimes, it can be what a mother really needs.
Their relationship deepens as both Tully and Marlo discover the beauty and value in womanhood and motherhood. And, in an arguably rare moment in cinema, Tully and Marlo form a bond that is a true celebration of sisterhood as well.
“I have found people watching the trailer going, ‘So what happens? Does the nanny kill you?’” Theron shares in an interview with Vulture. “No, she actually rescues me. We have been so inundated with those ideas that a woman can’t care for another woman, and that’s so sad.”
It’s Davis’ and Theron’s portrayals as well as the script’s depiction of women that has gotten Tully so much praise and critical acclaim. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich says: "Tully never pulls at your heartstrings quite as hard as it might, but there’s something beautiful about the way these two women both learn to love themselves, and in a way that also makes it easier for them to love each other.” Several other critics have also commended the brutally powerful and moving performances from both actresses, each carving out the soul of the film for audiences to see.
Tully ends in a stroke of genius from the writers — with a twist that has the whole internet buzzing. But for reasons that go without saying, curious movie-watchers will have to find out for themselves. Safe to say, however, that the film is a beautiful and honest ode to the experience of motherhood and the importance of empathizing with them. It delves into the heart and soul of the journey — beauty, madness, strength and all, for the rest of the world to see and be unendingly grateful for.
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