From our own experiences and from what has been told to us, mothers are often seen as magical beings. They give life and then care for it unconditionally to the point of exhaustion and are offered little in return. Jason Reitman’s latest film Tully moves past the bliss that comes from motherhood to explore the trials and tribulations of someone who has reached their breaking point who even in their strongest of moments need a little help sometimes.
Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody excel at creating brutally honest and uncomfortably funny stories. Their films Juno and Young Adult were both dark comedies that were some of the most relatable films made in the last decade. Their latest film Tully is no exception and brings back Charlize Theron to round out Reitman and Cody’s bleak humor. Following Theron’s character, Marlo, being a mother of two who now is having her third child, when the stress of her daily life begins to take its toll on her following the third’s birth, Marlo is introduced to a night nanny named Tully to help her regain her sanity.
This story does an incredible job of making Marlo relatable. Through each scene and expertly edited montages you can feel her exhaustion boil over and hear the sarcasm in her tone when speaking to school administrators about her “quirky” son. The film isn’t shy about showing the effect of an inactive father in his children’s upbringing comparative to their mother. Each night ends with Marlo barely able to move and her husband playing video games in their bed. The way the husband’s character was written and portrayed, it’s hard not to want to yell at him on Marlo’s behalf.
The great draw of Reitman/Cody films is their writing. Tully is a perfect mixture of witty dialogue, well paced montages, and music that fits the film’s needed moods perfectly. These montages serve a dual purpose in this film, as they’re meant to demonstrate the draining nature of how much Marlo has to do on a daily basis and also how repetitive and infuriating this cycle must be. This provided pretense for why Marlo speaks the way she does to most of the other characters. She makes backhanded and subtle jokes in normal conversation which sometimes seem like they’re meant for the audience and never register to the other characters. Marlo, in a way, speaks like a grown-up version of Ellen Paige’s titular character from the film Juno, who is coincidentally having a baby and lives for sardonic humor.
At first glance, Tully looks to be a movie about a normal mother with small children who is exhausted and is offered some help from a younger woman. While this is what the movie is about, this isn’t completely the full story. The depths to which Reitman and Cody take this film is impressive and while the character’s remain fun with punchy dialogue throughout, the layers of their psychology become exposed, creating something that feels more personal and empathetic. There’s quite a bit to spoil with the film, but what can be said is that it will certainly warrant some re-watches for the careful build and screenwriting through Marlo’s character arc. The surprises to be found in Tully are both enlightening and devastating at the same time.
Tully is a real film that doesn’t hold back or censor the truth of motherhood. At times it was hilarious and fast paced, and at others somber and slow. Theron proved once again why she’s an actress to be reckoned with in Hollywood. We can only hope that Reitman and Cody continue to pair up and make these memorable and important films that everyone should see. And if you’re looking for something to do with your mother for Mother’s Day, Tully is a great choice, as you’ll have no other option than to say “Thank you” to her when the lights come back on.