Even with its listing as a drama/comedy, there is something that is dark and sinister about ‘Tully.’ The film has this pervasive mood that fills you with dread. It’s an amazing balancing act by director Jason Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody that keeps ‘Tully’ engaging from beginning to end.
Charlize Theron is amazing as Marlo, a mother of three, who is absolutely overwhelmed by the needs of her children. With her son, Jonah, needing special care and having just given birth, Marlo is at her wit’s end. Her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), is in the middle of a precarious point at work and would rather just play video games than help out.
On the advice of her more successful brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), Marlo hires a night nanny and she comes like a godsend. The night nanny, Tully (played by the wonderful Mackenzie Davis), becomes more than just a helping hand that helps Marlo catch up on her sleep. Over the next couple of weeks, Marlo and Tully’s relationship grows from employer and employee to a genuine friend. Something that is sorely lacking in Marlo’s life.
Before Tully comes into Marlo’s life, the film is relentless in showing how merciless the life of a mother can be. Without ever underlining the social commentary being made, ‘Tully’ brings to the spotlight the challenges and difficulties a mother without the means must face to raise her children and the personal sacrifices to her own health and well-being.
Reitman and Cody build a dark and unforgiving world that feels grounded in truth. It’s so blaringly mundane but necessary that you can see how much Tully’s arrival can do so much good for Marlo. The change in the film’s tone and character is so subtle at Tully’s entrance that you stay alert yet you feel absolute relief.
But something still feels amiss. As Marlo and Tully get closer, there are so many hints that there is more to Tully than what you see. This is the genius of the film, there is relief but there is still tension but you don’t know what it is exactly. The pieces are there but they don’t easily come together until they do.
Charlize Theron and Mackenzie Davis are absolutely magnificent in their roles. All of Theron’s charm, presence, and majesty from previous films have been shoved aside until what remains is a heavy, almost-empty shell of the woman she was. The tight script shows the potential (or the remnants) of the woman she used to be and Theron manages to bring this out in every scene. When Tully comes into her life, her slow and steady transformation back into a human being is so subtle but deliberately so.
Theron might have just made a serious play for another Best Actress Oscar nomination with this movie.
And Mackenzie Davis is this breath of fresh air that comes into the film and lights up the screen with her very presence. It’s an amazing interplay of two very different women coming together at the middle point.
‘Tully’ is a very different sort of film about motherhood. It’s creepy yet it’s also eye-opening and unashamedly so. It feels real and raw but also filled with tenderness and warmth. It’s a beautiful film that will make you uneasy but it will also touch you.
It makes for a wonderful Mother’s Day treat with the mom, if you’re old enough to face the frightening truth about Tully.