Tully review — A blindingly honest motherhood dramedy

Directed by Jason Reitman | Written by Diablo Cody | 96 min

Jason Reitman is the celebrated filmmaker of Thank You For Smoking and Up In The Air, and with Oscar-winning screenwriter, Diablo Cody, the teen-pregnancy dramedy Juno and Young AdultHis past two projects were explorations of unpopular genres that landed DOA at the box office; the Ordinary People-for-the-Information-Age drama Men, Women, & Children, and the Lifetime-movie stylings of Labor Day.

Here he’s reteamed with Cody and his Young Adult lead, Charlize Theron, for a film more of a kind with some of his earlier material—the repercussions of reproduction—and something more likely to appeal to a wider audience if they get a chance to see it. Tully is on a single screen out at Bayers Lake.

Here Theron is Marlo, a suburban 40-something woman with two kids under 10 and a third on the way. Her boy may be autistic, though his issues haven’t been labeled. The school calls him quirky, which she resents, but he’s certainly intensely reactive to the world. When the third child arrives, her life gets that much more difficult. Her useless but otherwise loving husband (Ron Livingston) would rather play video games than be much of a help, so her wealthy brother whose “factory setting is asshole” (Mark Duplass) gives her the gift of a night nanny to come by in the evenings to watch the baby, clean up, and give Marlo the chance to get some sleep. That’s Tully (Mackenzie Davis). She’s a 26-year-old empathy and childcare ninja with energy to spare, and everything in Marlo’s life gets better when Tully’s around.

What’s going on here is an entirely unvarnished look at the reality of being a parent; the sleep deprivation, the stress, the physical changes, and the deep, painful impact to one’s entire identity when your entire life is a support system for kids. We’ve finally gotten to a place in the culture where women can be honest about the real sacrifices being a mother requires without being heaped with scorn, and that’s what this film is about.

Tully brings more to the screen than some dramatic dissertation, it’s also a bang-up dark comedy. Cody hasn’t lost the ability to write a script wall-to-wall with deft, unexpected wordplay and mature, thoughtful humour, and sends the story into a kind of third-act tightrope walk with revelations that could sour an audience’s affection for the film if not delivered with grace—but that’s exactly what Reitman’s able to do. And Theron is as impressive here as she’s ever been, from Monster to Young Adult to Mad Max Fury Road.

Tully isn’t only about a woman coming to terms with being a mother and the results of her mature decision-making, it’s also about someone reconnecting with the dreams and expectations of her youth, and whether or not they actually came to be. It’s a real Generation X dramedy with surprising depth, relevant whether you’re burdened/blessed by children or not.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.