Tully is an Ode to the Beauty and Struggles of Motherhood

Courtesy of Focus Features

Courtesy of Focus Features

Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, the team behind 2007's Juno, have reunited for Tully, a powerful film about motherhood. Charlize Theron plays Marlo, an overworked, stressed-out mother of three with an absent husband (Ron Livingston) whose routine involves going to work, coming home to help the kids with their homework, and preferring to play on his Xbox rather than asking his wife how her day was. This neglect drives Marlo to accept her more successful brother's offer to hire a “night nanny” who comes to help watch Marlo's newborn daughter overnight.

Marlo is easily the most relatable character in the film. She is a middle-class mom who struggles to single-handedly look after her kids and their needs. Although her frustration might come across like she simply doesn’t care anymore, the movie makes a point of showing the truth -- she loves her kids, but she’s just exhausted. Theron perfectly captures that side of motherhood. She’s a good mother who deeply loves her children, but eventually, looking after three children, including one who has special needs, takes its toll physically, emotionally and mentally.

The arrival of the titular character Tully is met with skepticism by Marlo, who feels uncomfortable with a stranger being in her house overnight who is looking after her newborn daughter. The character of Tully feels like wish-fulfillment of parents who themselves face the same struggle as Marlo. While it would be nice for every mother with a newborn to have access to a night nanny, being able to afford a nanny is out of many people’s price range, including Marlo’s family.

The introduction of Tully might make some people wonder if the first half of the movie is just an elaborate set-up for a horror movie. Tully begins to take a strange interest in Marlo’s personal life. At times, Tully knew a little too much about Marlo and there’s a particular scene where you wonder how anyone would be okay with a nanny doing what Tully does.

Fortunately, by the time the movie ends, you realize just how damaged Marlo has become and why Tully does what she does. It may sound like a criticism of Marlo’s character, but it really isn’t. Tully is ultimately about coming to terms with the fact that once you have kids, your life revolves around them. 

Marlo at times laments the fact that she isn’t as free as she used to be, and criticizes her younger self’s lack of ambition when Marlo says that she wishes she could have failed at achieving her dreams because she could at least hate the world instead of hating herself. Because the movie is about Marlo and her struggles, the ending is a wake-up call to fathers who might not do as much for their spouse. Depending on how you feel about the message, you might find the film either depressing or heartwarming.