Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman team up once again for what amounts to a really great and unusual depiction of motherhood and how it can consume one’s identity. I found it to be honest, direct and heartfelt while also deftly avoiding cliché. It’s not a perfect film, but its flaws are tiny compared to its achievements and I would definitely see it again.
Charlize Theron plays Marlo, an exhausted mother of three who is losing her mind trying to keep up with a newborn baby and a son labelled “quirky” by school staff, while her eldest daughter seems to be fairly capable of looking after herself (nice, given the challenges of the other two, but not entirely true). Her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), struggles to make his career work and spends a lot of time on the road. Seeing her stressed out all the time, Marlo’s brother Craig (the always fun Mark Duplass) hires a “night nanny” for her so she can at least get a good night’s sleep while someone else monitors the kids. Mackenzie Davis turns up as Tully and forms a close bond with Marlo.
To say more would be to risk ruining the surprises that turn up as the film progresses. Suffice to say, not all is as it appears, and even though there is an initial concern that this is going to turn out to be The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, the film avoids that and many other potentially cliché plot turns. What the story is really more about is identity and the extent to which we submerge our true selves in the service of just getting on with life. Through Tully, Marlo is able to rediscover herself and her forgotten passions in surprising ways.
The film is a bit uneven in the beginning stages but once it finds its feet I found it extremely engaging. It’s funny, poignant and unexpectedly profound; I found myself in tears during the final scenes, not because of on-screen tragedy but because the ideas and themes in the film felt so heartbreakingly true. I loved the performances, particularly Theron who put on fifty pounds to look the part of a third-time mother struggling to keep herself together and carries the film splendidly. She and her fellow actors are supported by a sharp, wry script and low-key direction which allows them to shine.
I think Tully is one of the best movies of the year so far. I loved the script and the actors and really responded strongly to the message of the film which seems to be “don’t forget who you are”. There is a great twist near the end of the movie which I loved because it took me by surprise and yet, looking back, the clues about it were there throughout the movie, which makes me want to revisit the film and see how it all adds up knowing that it’s coming this time. Unexpectedly compelling viewing, I highly recommend Tully.