Jason Reitman’s Tully is an intense portrayal of motherhood, and the harsh reality of the toll having children can have on a person. The story centres on the mother Marlo (Charlize Theron) and her struggle to take care of her three children. The writer Diablo Cody, along with director Jason Reitman, did a superb job of grounding the characters and presenting the audience with a nuclear family dynamic that hinges on Marlo, showing the burden she has to bare to keep her family afloat. The night nanny Tully (Mackenzie Davis), the titular character, is core to the story as her friendship with Marlo develops, and the pressures of being a mother become lighter for Marlo to handle. The cast were well chosen and the actors, especially Charlize Theron, did a terrific job in their portrayal of seemingly ordinary characters.
The film gives credence and vision to how the role of the parent can be challenging and completely overwhelming. At times the film felt so real that it almost became stressful to watch, as the screams of children seemed to bellow out of the screen. The editing of the film is put to use in these instances as scenes jump from extreme chaos to scenes of quiet. This emphasises a few things. It reiterates how stressful being a parent can be, whilst simultaneously revealing how lonely Marlo feels, trapped in the bubble that no-one else seems to clearly see, like her husband Drew (Ron Livingston). Furthermore montages are used to show the repetitive nature of Marlo’s life, and again hit home that trapping sensation. A shift occurs when Tully is introduced, as the mood of the piece seems to lift and thus throughout the film there are moments of breakthroughs and positivity, giving this impactful film moments of levity.
While there were some humorous moments that served as a relief to the more serious scenes, I would not class Tully as a comedy film as I have seen it marketed, but instead a family drama. The same director and writer created 2007’s Juno starring Ellen Page, yet the tone of Tully feels much more mature than that film, and whilst I enjoy the humour present in Juno, Tully feels more honest and raw. It is situated in the everyday and feels like a true depiction of motherhood that can be brutal at times, as exhaustion becomes Marlo’s life. Added to this the film deals well with serious themes of feeling alone as a mother, as well as the pressure to be a good mother, and how the ideals of doing it alone and being great at it are damaging to people’s mental health.
The layers of the film are deeper than I had anticipated, and the way the narrative is framed offers the viewer more of an insight into Marlo’s psychology. Marlo, and later Tully, become the centre of the story, and while we could see more of the other characters they are not neglected. Subtle moments hint at the bigger picture. This is evident in terms of her son’s journey, as well as that of her husband Drew. The ending of the film gives a satisfying resolution and conveys a hopeful conclusion.