The experience of motherhood is often said to be the best feeling in the world. Watching a child grow from being completely dependent on others to forming its own thoughts and ideas is breathtaking.
Unfortunately, what isn’t talked about is the sheer stress and trauma of motherhood. Having two souls sharing the same body for nine months and suddenly that soul is ripped out, leaving its mother to adjust. That is the beauty and brutal nature of childbirth. Then there’s the physicality of motherhood. The strength that it takes every day just waking up for feedings, the constant crying that invades the mind, body, and soul. The tantrums that cause others in stare in disgust, worrisome calls from teachers, the physical undertow and the sheer mental stress from it all.
But motherhood is a blessing.
Say hello to Tully, a hilarious, painful and unapologetically miserable side of motherhood from screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman. Coming together for the third time, Tully is stripped to the bare bones of motherhood as Charlize Theron commits her entire being into the role of Marlo, a stressed-out mother of two (pregnant with one) who feels like her world is collapsing around her. She is drained, not just physically but mentally, emotionally and sexually. She longs for someone to take care of her the way she so selflessly gives herself to her kids.
The feeling of frustration, loneliness, and emptiness quickly overwhelm her while Drew, her husband (Ron Livingston) is supportive and caring, he’s also oblivious to Marlo’s struggles as he operates on autopilot and video games. Also dealing with an autistic son, Marlo is isolated in her grief and slips into a depression. It isn’t until she accepts the offer of hiring a night nanny from her brother-in-law does her life begin to change.
Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a New Jerseyite version of Mary Poppins, whose young free-spirit and sassy attitude sweeps Marlo away to a land of calmness, baking, sleep schedules and happiness. Tully soon becomes Marlo’s confident and friend; the only person who seems to give a damn about Marlo. As their relationship flourishes, so does the rest of the family. However, all that glitters isn’t always gold and some shocking revelations are unearthed that leaves Tully and Marlo in an uncompromising situation. How it unfolds could also leave the audience split.
Fortunately, no matter how divided the movie can be, it’s undeniable that Tully is the most accurate movie about postpartum depression. Theron pours her soul and her body into the role as each second she edges closer to having a nervous breakdown. Despite the seriousness of theme, Cody is able to balance the drama with hilarious sardonic moments. Whether it’s mishandling a newborn, the struggle of cooking or dealing with a principal who’s determined to refer to Marlo’s son as “quirky.” There are enough highlights to keep the audience laughing and crying along with Marlo.
Reitman and cinematographer Eric Steelberg should be applauded for their unflinching choices to show the audience what pregnancy does to the female body. Distended nipples are on full display, the failures of jogging while breastfeeding is explored, as well as the deathtrap of LEGOs. Each scene is shot to highlight the weariness of the moment. Not even private car cries are off limit.
Deeply meaningful and downright enjoyable, Tully is Cody’s finest work. Filled with love and empathy, Tully is what happens when good mothers fail at being the version society wants and starts being true to themselves. Motherhood is not always going to be fun but it sure is a memorable journey and thankfully this movie is here to celebrate it in all its glorious flaws.