How many positive depictions of motherhood in cinema can you think of? Whether it’s with body horror or performance anxiety, filmmakers over the years have made it very clear that being a mother is no bed of roses. Tully is no different, casting Charlize Theron into a domestic nightmare all the more terrifying for how mundane it is.
Semi-serious comparisons have been made to We Need To Talk About Kevin but aside from a few quips there are no serial killers on display here. Instead mum Marlo (Theron) faces a much simpler horror, all the more frightening for how common it is: raising three kids. Her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) is a good father, but inattentive to how the stresses of motherhood are wearing her down, and their two older children aren’t monsters but just difficult, complicated little people. As for their new baby, the highlights reel of its day-to-day care is one of the most terrifying montages never to show any actual violence. If you were thinking of having a child before, Tully will change your mind.
This gallows humour perspective on motherhood is the kind of wry angle we’ve come to expect from writer Diablo Cody, and her usual no-holds barred dialogue is as delicious and funny as always. She’s aided by a tremendous performance from regular collaborator Theron, who telegraphs the ticking fuse of a parent on the edge with real delicacy.
The arrival of dream nanny Tully (an effervescent Mackenzie Davis) produces some great insight on what society expects from mothers and women in general, but the story fails to develop into anything satisfying. Cody ends her screenplay with the kind of gambit that either makes for an instant watercooler moment, or mars the film that came before. Sadly Tully is the latter.
CAST: Charlize Theron, Ron Livingston, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, Elaine Tan
DIRECTORS: Jason Reitman
WRITERS: Diablo Cody
SYNOPSIS: The film is about Marlo, a mother of three including a newborn, who is gifted a night nanny by her brother. Hesitant to the extravagance at first, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully.