Being a new mother is one of those parts of life that society acts like they understand, but nobody really does until they experience it. I personally remember being 19 years old with twins and feeling like I was going to lose my mind from a lack of sleep. But, I only had to watch them for a few months before basic training and I had my wife’s help. After that, it was all her. Same thing with the next two children. She did everything. As much as I tried be kind and supportive, I could never truly understand the stressfully beautiful bond that a mother has with her children.
That’s what writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman try to shed a light on in ‘Tully’. Luckily for the audience, this team is the same one that brought us ‘Juno’ and their magic is back. While I wouldn’t go as far as to call ‘Tully’ a great film, it is certainly a beautifully crafted one. The tale here of a middle aged mother named Marlo (Charlize Theron) and her battle with postpartum depression is at times deeply moving. Yet, it will also have parents rolling in the aisles remembering the wonders and difficulties of raising an infant.
The hook to this story is that Marlo’s brother (Mark Duplass) hires her at night nanny in order to get caught up on some rest, but Marlo is reluctant. At first, she does not even call the nanny, but after things get very rough it’s Tully (Mackenzie Davis) to the rescue. I’m not sure if this night nanny thing is a real life phenomenon, but Tully is like a miracle worker, and some of her actions make her seem like a fantasy. Reitman and Cody manages to make Tully just believable enough to help us buy her as this miracle worker, but always just a few odd choices away from being some kind of angel.
Which is the only real issue with the film. Mackenzie Davis is wonderful as Tully, but she is almost too wonderful and when she starts to help Marlo figure out problems with her sex life it feels like a bit of a stretch. Of course, it all makes sense in the end and also makes everything much more emotionally resonant. Still, I feel that a slight twist of the Tully character and a few more great scenes would have pushed this film into “Best of the year” territory. So, it’s a little frustrating.
As it stands, ‘Tully’ is a deeply personal film that falls just shy of greatness. Charlize Theron fully commits to shining a light on the difficulties motherhood, depression, middle age, and marriage. In fact, she gives the best performance anyone has given in anything I’ve seen yet this year. I’m not sure if she will be remembered come Oscar time, but it’s a role that audiences shouldn’t miss.