Diablo Cody has a way of bringing biting insights into moments of life’s transitions. Cinema is bloated with coming-of-age and growing-up stories. In her latest tale, Tully, directed by longtime collaborator Jason Reitman, Cody tackles that moment in life when you are forced to say goodbye to your youth.
Marlo (Charlize Theron) is on the verge of having her third child with husband, Drew (Ron Livingston). There is a great deal of anxiety this time around. After the last pregnancy, Marlo experienced severe post-partum depression and their son, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) wound up having developmental problems described as “quirky.”
“After the last pregnancy, Marlo experienced severe post-partum depression…”
As in-laws have a habit of doing, Marlo’s brother Craig (Mark Duplass) decides to meddle by offering to pay for night-nanny services when Marlo gives birth. A night nanny basically cares of a newborn infant during the night, so the parents can get a full night’s rest. Initially resistant to the idea, Marlo reaches her exhaustion point and accepts the help taking care of newborn, Mia. Where is Drew, you may ask? Three words—Gears of War.
In comes the titular character, Tully (Mackenzie Davis), who comes across as the Mary Poppins for new mothers. Not only does she care for the newborn, but she does all the neglected chores that Marlo has no energy to do, like cleaning the house and baking cupcakes for Jonah’s classmates. Like Mary Poppins, she instinctually knows what Marlo needs to hear to break out of her funk and cope with the mounting pressure of raising a needy son, her less-than-perfect body, and a stale relationship with Drew.
Tully’s services appear to work for Marlo. She has more energy, a clear head, and time to devote the kids and husband Drew. But like any good film, when things get better, things get worse.
“…comes across as the Mary Poppins for new mothers.”
Everything changes when any couple has kids. You change. Your partner changes. The couple, you once were, is unrecognizable to the couple you are now. On top of that, you have young lives to grow, protect and teach. Ultimately Tully is about the inevitable change we experience as we grow older and the mourning process that occurs when we realize we can’t go back.
The beauty of Tully is that Diablo Cody takes an experience we all go through and intensifies the drama and humor of the situation to the point where she slaps you in the face and says, “this is you!” She does this by taking a strong character, played beautifully by Charlize Theron, makes her relatable and then puts her in a situation we’ve all experienced and turns the heat up to eleven. MacKenzie Davis is youthful and insightful as the night nanny and the perfect counterpart to Theron’s Marlo.
If there is a negative to Tully, it will with the mark with the big studio’s target demographic, i.e. young people. Personally, as a middle-aged parent and I got it: the message, the story, everything. This film was made with my peers and me in mind. Will millennials see Tully as a cautionary tale about the pitfalls having a family (I think I just offended a whole bunch of our readers. Sorry, skip this last part). The is the second film from Cody, Reitman, and Theron making Tully the natural evolution of the previous Young Adult. Go see Tully for the pure emotional experience.
Tully (2018) Directed by Jason Reitman. Written by Diablo Cody. Starring Charlize Theron, MacKenzie Davis, and Ron Livingston. Tully screened at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival.
4 out of 5 stars