Tully (2018)

Mom, what’s wrong with your body?

Tully filmThis month, I discovered what dry brushing is. Don’t you find that sometimes you read about something, and soon enough, it enters your life in some other way too? The film Tully by Jason Reitman, the acclaimed director of Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult, opens with Marlo (Charlize Theron) brushing her son Jonah’s body (Asher Miles Fallica). She does this every night before bed time, as it helps him release anxiety.

When we meet her, Marlo is nine months pregnant, about to give birth any day. She has two children and lives with her husband Drew (Ron Livingston), who has a complicated auditing job, in upstate New York. One could confidently say that Marlo’s home life and life situation in general are a cause for depression: she can’t be bothered to cook for her children and heats up frozen food for them every day, she watches a pornographic reality show called “Gigolo” every night and can’t seem to find joy in anything. One evening, her brother Craig (Mark Duplass) recommends she hire a night nanny to prevent her from collapsing after the new baby comes. While she is cynical about a stranger taking care of her baby at first, after one of Jonah’s many tantrums, she takes the plunge and calls the nanny called Tully (Mackenzie Davis).

Tully becomes the guardian angel that Marlo needed, cleaning the house and most importantly taking care of newly born Mia. As the nights progress, Marlo catches up on her much-missed sleep, starts enjoying her new daughter’s presence and reconnects with her family and community. Furthermore, she bonds with Tully and finds a new friend in this carefree, charming and spontaneous person.

However, this spontaneity will prove dangerous on the night Tully pushes Marlo to leave her house and party in New York City.

I will not give too much away here, but writer Diablo Cody and director Reitman show us a unique view of motherhood and honour the difficulties mothers face without admitting to them. Like in many of his previous films, Reitman observes what happens behind closed doors, honouring family and respecting those who lurk in the shadows. Tully ultimately represents a nostalgia for Marlo’s carefree past, but is also a reminder of what she’s achieved and how proud she can be of that.

Charlize Theron excels as a principled yet messy woman who has been burying her feelings for too long. Her motherhood of three children has ripped her of her sleep and of any desires outside of it. A lethargic quality overwhelms the actress’s whole body which means she just needs to fully be in that state to form her character. It’s wonderful to watch Theron with Duplass. Brother-sister relationships on screen are special, and here, few words create an entire backstory for the two of them.

Livingston is a strong supporting character as Marlo’s husband, realising quite late how much he’s been taking her for granted. Finally, Davis is an intriguing, slightly alien-like presence who keeps surprising us but also quickly smells of danger.

I highly recommend this film for the twists in the story and the delightful central performances.

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