Comedy Drama

Film Review: ‘Tully’ Speaks to a Universal Yearning in All of Us

May 4, 2018Ben MK

Events like the birth of the new royal baby remind us that parenthood is something to be treasured, and that there's nothing more precious than a newborn's smile. For most parents, though, the experience of caring for an infant is decidedly more stressful, full of midnight bottle feedings and countless sleepless nights. Tully is one of those stories.

The third collaboration between screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, Tully stars Charlize Theron as Marlo, a 40-something-year-old stay-at-home mom who put her career in Human Resources on hold to focus on family. Little did she realize, however, that she would be doing so indefinitely. Now, two kids later and with a third on the way, Marlo is unhappy, to put it mildly. Her oldest, 8-year-old Sarah (Lia Frankland) is fairly low-maintenance, all things considered, but the same can't be said of Sarah's younger brother, Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), who requires more parental energy to look after.

Described by his school's principal as "quirky," Jonah is a boy on the spectrum, and as such, it's recommended to Marlo that she hire an aide to help give him the one-on-one attention that he needs. But with the school unable to foot the bill and Marlo and her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), getting by on his meager salary alone, the odds of that happening are slim to none. Factor in new baby Mia, whose arrival robs Marlo of her ability to sleep and turns her into a 24/7 milking machine, and Marlo finds herself figuratively and literally drained.

Having seen how her previous two pregnancies wrecked her, Marlo's brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), offers to get her a night nanny — someone who would come by the house at night to tidy up and take care of the baby. At first, Marlo is resistant to the idea, but then one day Tully (Mackenzie Davis) shows up on her doorstep. An attractive, free-spirited young woman in her twenties, Tully's presence in her home initially makes Marlo uneasy. But then the two women start to bond, and they begin to realize that they have much more in common than they first thought.

As Marlo begins to emotionally open up to Tully and allow her to lift some of the burden she's been carrying on her weary shoulders, a magical thing begins to happen — she begins to feel like her old self again. Her relationship with Drew improves. She's finally able to get some shut-eye. She even starts wearing makeup again. But what about when it all has to end? After all, this arrangement isn't meant to last forever. And when it comes time for Tully to make her exit, will Marlo be able to find a way to cope?

Funny, poignant and a raw and honest exemplification of everything that's both good and bad about motherhood, Tully is a film that parents will identify with the most. However, that's not to say that moviegoers who've never known what it's like to raise a child will feel alienated. On the contrary, Tully speaks to that universal yearning in all of us — the desire to be loved, to find value and purpose in life, and, perhaps most importantly, to grow and change from the people we once were and become the people those who depend on us need us to be.

Tully releases May 4th, 2018 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language and some sexuality/nudity. Its runtime is 1 hr. 36 min.

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