TULLY Review: 8 out of 10 (A Dark Mom Fable)
TULLY is a new dark comedy that pushes back on ideas about motherhood, maternal roles in relationships, and the mental load of being a woman. It is directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody. The film stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, and Ron Livingston and is the fourth collaboration between Reitman and Cody including JUNO (2007), JENNIFER’S BODY (2009) and YOUNG ADULT (2011). Theron plays Marlo—a mother of two who is about to deliver her third child. Her husband Drew is an emotionally absent husband and father who does enough to get by but fails to be proactive in helping Marlo. Their youngest son has some special needs, Marlo has her career, but also is tasked with running the household. Like so many women who are subjected to cultural stereotypes of gender roles in the household, Marlo is overwhelmed. Just before her due date, Marlo’s brother Craig (Duplass) makes her an offer of a “night nanny” to help her with her stress, work load, and motherly duties. Being the confident “do-it-all” mother, she rejects the idea. After the new baby Mia arrives, the pressure of motherhood ignites, postpartum depression sets in, and in a moment of desperation, Marlo gives the nanny a call. And then she arrives. Tully (Mackenzie Davis) is a confident young woman who comes in and immediately becomes a game changer for Marlo and her life. But even Tully herself has secrets reveal as the film moves ahead.
To be fair to those reading this, the film *likely* should come with a potential trigger warning for new moms or even those women who have struggled with postpartum depression. The film has a dark edge to its humor but the sights, sounds, and symbols of this film resonate into a modern parenthood that is brutal and raw. And yet, these two women—Tully and Marlo—grow in a sisterhood that gives them power. Even as the film seems to take a hard left turn in the third act, the two women continue to offer a compelling and authentic experience that many mothers will connect with. Theron herself gained nearly fifty pounds for the role in just three and a half months—committing to a physicality in her performance that furthers the movie’s relatability.
There are plenty of movies about motherhood. Some range from the saintly to the cancerous. And yet TULLY is a sort of Mary Poppins to the postpartum woman. She is this instant antidote for Marlo needs in her life. Tully gives her peace, friendship, and power. But sometimes the perfect drug has a high cost. TULLY might not be the perfect Mother’s Day film, but it might be the one we all deserve. And for men, partners, and fathers who have no idea what a term like “the mental load” even represents, it should be required viewing.