Life changes for Marlo (Charlize Theron) in her chaotic world, when a Night Nanny named Tully (Mackenzie Davis) comes into her life to help her cope with her two young children and a new baby.
Review by Louise Keller:
Don't be misled: this is no comedy. Tully is a psychological drama about motherhood - without the gloss. It's raw, painful and confronting. But there is beauty in the pain as we partake in the journey and reach the destination. Truth, lies and expectations are the themes of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody's third collaboration; it's a film that delves deeper than you might expect and offers food for thought beyond its central theme.
Involving, confronting and buoyed by insight, Cody's (Juno, Young Adult) adept screenplay comes from a dark place replete with pain. A place where paradoxes convene and conspire. Embracing the material with great sensitivity, Reitman (Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking) brings all the elements together with finesse. The upbeat soundtrack lifts us. I enjoyed the film more in hindsight, when the conflation of all the intricate details painted on its canvas solidifies into a thoughtful work of art.
When the film begins, we enter Marlo's (Theron) tumultuous reality as she juggles life with two demanding young children and the imminent arrival of a new baby. She is clearly on the edge. A woman in crisis. We understand exactly what she is going through as we watch her face when special needs son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) throws his tantrums. Likewise, when his school alerts her to his being 'quirky'. Or do they mean 'retarded'? There is no euphoric moment when the baby is born. It is perfunctory. The baby's name is revealed later - almost as an afterthought.
Devoid of the constraints of vanity, Theron gives us her all. She is superb and delivers a nuanced, sublime performance. Superficially, we see the excess weight she carries on her body. But there is also the burden of the weight of Marlo's expectations. Life's expectations. Her own. Society tells her she should be happy. Grateful. Able to manage everything on her own. Right? Husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is there. Supportive in his own way. But he is a cardboard cutout. Present but absent; retreating into his escapist world of video games each night. As for sex? Forget it. How does a milk machine by day become a sex siren by night? Happiness is not delivered with Baby number 3, but chaos: nappies, swollen breasts, expressing milk, more nappies and sleep deprivation. All this and a recurring dream about a mermaid. These are the impossible quandaries in Marlo's life.
Does Marlo reconsider her wealthy brother Craig's (Mark Duplass) offer of a gift of a Night Nurse to help her through this demanding time? A knock on the door one night and the arrival of Tully (Mackenzie Davis, enigmatic in this Mary Poppins-esque role) is a game changer. 'You can't fix the parts without treating the whole,' this bright, calm 24 year old tells Marlo as she sets about to resolve all her issues, addressing every aspect of her life impacted by the pressures and strains of motherhood. Watch for the scene when Tully asks Marlo about Drew's fantasies. We shake our heads in disbelief as to where this might be heading.
Just as we begin to wonder where we are heading, there is a gear change, taking the film in an unexpected direction. It may take you by surprise. It surprised me. What also surprised me was my reflective response to the film. This is not the feel-good film you might expect, but one filled with sensitivity and observation. It's a bittersweet insight that works beautifully on its own terms.
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PRODUCER: Charlize Theron, Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman, Mackenzie Davis, A.J.Dix, Helen Estabrook, Aaron L. Gilbert, Beth Kono, Mason Novick,
DIRECTOR: Jason Reitman
SCRIPT: Diablo Cody
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Steelberg
EDITOR: Stefan Grube
MUSIC: Rob Simosen
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anastasia Masaro
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Studio Canal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 10, 2018